|Date: Saturday 16 April Time: 15:30 BST Place: Wembley Stadium, London Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app|
Ahead of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool, BBC Sport’s Kelly Somers spoke to midfielder Jack Grealish at City’s Academy Stadium to interview him for BBC One’s live match coverage.
She interviewed Grealish this summer during England’s Euro campaign, when they discussed his close relationship with his sister, who has cerebral palsy, and his love of football just for fun – this time they focused on his start to life at Manchester City following his £100m move from Aston Villa last August.
As Jack Grealish walks into the room I explain what we’re up to and he nods as he turns on his microphone – due to Manchester City’s busy schedule in the build-up we’re talking 10 days before their semi-final of the FA Cup against Liverpool, so before their thrilling draw in the Premier League.
“So we’re not talking about Liverpool? he asks, sitting down next to me.
“No, it’s all about you. I have some stats on your season,” I reply.
Just as he isn’t fazed by the noise that followed his big-money transfer from Aston Villa, Grealish takes the somewhat unique nature of our interview in his stride.
Focus on numbers
The 26-year-old has mentioned several times this season that he pays attention to numbers.
“Obviously as an attacking player you want goals and assists. I know on the one hand that I should definitely have more assists,” he told me.
“Goals – I think I need to get into the goalscoring positions a bit more, but I know it’s not just about goals and assists. There are big games that we won and I feel like I contributed.”
Does it frustrate him when people only pay attention to the number of goals and assists?
He hesitates and smiles again.
“A little but I can see why people say it. But it’s so different,” he explains.
“I sat down with the manager and the analysts at City, they showed me stats you want to see as an attacking player that aren’t goals and assists – expected assists, assists in the last third, successful passes in the final third and stuff like that, where I had a lot of success.
“I just need a few to fall in my way and then they will come.”
|Appearances||27||N / A||32||N / A|
|Departures||25||N / A||26||N / A|
|Minutes||2274||N / A||2229||N / A|
|Hit Conversion Rate||13.2||N / A||8.0||N / A|
|Keys in opp. box||182||7.2||198||8.0|
|Dribbling success rate||59.5||N / A||51.1||N / A|
|Pass Accuracy||83.1||N / A||88.1||N / A|
Need to be more selfish
Among the numbers we’ve presented to him are his touches in the box – he’s in the Premier League’s top three as we speak – but he’s not bothered by that one.
“I shoot a lot less than anyone,” he says. “I don’t even know why, guys say it here. Like, if I score in training, guys say, ‘why don’t you shoot more?’
“I should probably become more selfish. But like I said, I don’t really consider myself a selfish player. If someone is in a better position, I’ll pass it on to them.
“I actually like the feeling of having an assist – the players come and thank you for their goal. It’s just nice.
“Scoring is the best feeling in football, but I love assisting.”
Facing the pressure
If you’ve ever heard Grealish speak, you may have heard him recite the phrase ‘pressure is a privilege’, something his former Aston Villa manager Steve Burns told him.
So now, with so much at stake for him and City, does that still ring true?
“I think probably one of the most nervous times I’ve ever been in was in the semi-finals when I played against Liverpool for Aston Villa,” he said.
“As soon as I got on the pitch, I don’t know, I had a good game and I felt comfortable, and I half stood there and I was like, ‘I did this every day for my whole life’.
“Since then, I’ve never really been affected by the pressure. Even when I came here, people said ‘pressure’, but I swear I’m not. [feeling pressure] when I play.
“The most nervous I’ve ever been, other than that day, was my first session at City.
“There was no one there, there were no fans or anything, it was just the other players. Like going to training, if I gave a bad pass they would think ‘ hundred million? He can’t even control the ball!’
“I think even now sometimes with the price and everything it doesn’t affect me at all I swear it’s more or less trying to impress the manager because he’s such a great figure and trying to impress all these players that I’m playing with and I want them to think I’m a good player.
“It’s end of business now and I hope I can help the team and participate with goals and assists because that’s what I came here for.”
Over the past year, Grealish has played in a major European final for his country and has become the Premier League’s most expensive player.
And with City now embroiled in a title chase, in the last four of the Champions League, and this weekend in action in the FA Cup semi-finals, if the pressure really is a privilege then Grealish must feel truly blessed.