Ian Wright has hit back at suggestions his praise for Jack Grealish was ‘over the top’ following England’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium and insists Gareth Southgate has been crying out for a player capable of bringing such ‘chaos’ in the final third.
A pair of first-half goals from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens ensured England were denied a place in the Nations League finals but Southgate’s men had the majority of possession and missed several big chances at Leuven’s Den Dreef stadium.
Southgate had been reluctant to throw Grealish into his starting XI until Sunday night and the Aston Villa attacking midfielder shone on his full competitive debut for the Three Lions.
But many – including former England international Danny Mills – have questioned the superlatives thrown at Grealish by pundits like Wright, given his team were ultimately on the losing side at the weekend.
On the reaction to Grealish’s display, ex-England and Arsenal striker Wright said on his podcast Wrighty’s House: ‘I’ve been beating the drum for him to be in the side.
‘Since he’s come on the scene, the way his game’s progressed and what he’s done now and me calling for him to be in that squad because he’s the player we’ve needed and the stick I was getting…
‘I was reading some nasty stuff from stuff people in respects of, “We lost the game, why’s everybody going on about it?!”. What Jack Grealish showed in that game against Belgium – which is a team that’ll probably be challenging – was that is the player that we are going to need.
‘Nobody is saying “build the team around him”. Yes, you can funnel the ball to them but you’re not building everything around them.
‘Because even Diego Maradona in ’86, the team wasn’t built around him.
‘He had unbelievable players. Even with that team, they had brilliant players around him. Maradona was the icing on the cake.
‘All we need for Jack is to just pop up in those areas and just keep things moving. The little bit of skill he did there against [Thomas] Meunier, the way he was taking people on, dropping back into the left-back spot and whipping a great ball over into the left wing area.
‘He’s someone that progresses the ball wherever he ends up on the pitch.
‘What really annoys me is people saying, “Oh, you’re going way over the top!”. I’m not going over the top, when you watched us against Croatia, with nobody to bring us the chaos… Grealish bring chaos.’
Grealish will be confident of continuing his run in the side this evening when England play host to Iceland at Wembley.
The hosts could be without Chelsea’s Ben Chillwell and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, who were both forced off with injuries in Belgium.
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