Sheffield United boss praises the passion of Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish
He will be cast in the role of pantomime villain when Aston Villa take the stage at Bramall Lane.
But Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has revealed his admiration for Jack Grealish, the visitors’ captain, midfield maestro and talented talisman.
Like Wilder, Grealish grew-up supporting the club he now represents. And like Wilder, he helped it gain promotion last season.
Witnessing exactly what that meant to the youngster, at the Championship play-off final, convinced the already impressed 52-year-old Grealish was worthy of even greater respect.
“I was up close and personal there,” Wilder, whose United side went up automatically, said. “I was doing a bit of media work and afterwards you could see how much they’d put in.
“The expectations at Villa meant they were under an added pressure but the performances Jack put in, you’ve got to say he handled that so well.”
Despite being one of the most gifted players of his generation, Grealish remains a polarising figure on England’s football terraces.
Lauded by the Villa fans, he is loathed by others who view him as being overly-theatrical.
Events took a sinister turn during March’s derby with Birmingham City when he was attacked by a pitch invader. Paul Mitchell, aged 27, was handed a 14 week prison term following the shameful incident.
“He plays for a big club in a two club city, and we know that isn’t easy,” Wilder, whose squad drew with Sheffield Wednesday twice last term, said. “What happened, it was very unsavoury. Jack and his team mates have used that rivalry to try and drive themselves on.”