Jack Grealish has backed himself to improve further after finally earning international recognition with a call-up to the England squad for this month’s Nations League fixtures with Iceland and Denmark.
The midfielder was a notable – and somewhat surprising – exclusion from Gareth Southgate’s initial squad after enjoying an excellent season with Aston Villa, the 24-year-old amongst the Premier League’s most creative players and a key factor in Villa retaining their top-flight status.
Grealish has now been called into the squad, however, following the withdrawals of Tottenham’s Harry Winks and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, and the star admits he is relishing the prospect of testing himself at international level.
Grealish previously played under Southgate for the England U21 side and joins Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood, Kalvin Phillips, Conor Coady and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as first-time call-ups in a new-look side, with the Villa captain confident playing alongside England’s elite can only improve his game.
“I believe in my own ability and I’m confident I can perform at international level,” Grealish told The Sun. “But I also want to improve and I’m eager to learn what it takes to be a success at this level.
“If anything, I believe the better the players you play with or against, then the better you will perform yourself. I’ve always believed that.
“When you look around the England squad, they are not just the best players in the country — they are the best in the world. I’ve played against these guys when they’ve been playing for Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs, with not a lot of success! Now I can’t wait to actually train beside them and, hopefully, team up with the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold, rather than trying to stop them. I know I can become an even better player by learning from these amazing players.
“I want to show the manager what I’m all about, play to the best of my ability and, hopefully, keep my place in the squad.
“Sure, I had planned and hoped it would happen earlier in my career. Five years ago Roy Hodgson was on the verge of selecting me after I chose to represent England instead of Ireland. But our next games were against the Republic of Ireland and Scotland and it was put on hold. That was frustrating. Now all I want is the chance to show what I can do — it’s the biggest challenge of my career and I can’t wait.
“Hopefully playing with the best players in the country will bring out the best in me.
“Some of the guys in the squad made the breakthrough at 18 and 19 — I’m 24 but I’m desperate to learn and improve.”