JERMAINE JENAS: Jack Grealish can be our Gazza at the Euros…he has the ability, attitude, swagger and has the potential to be England’s best player this summer
- Jack Grealish is a player built for the big occasion and could light up the Euros
- He is the sort that demands the ball and has the magic to win the game
- If we are able to recreate the Euro 96 feeling then he will be our Gazza
- Gareth Southgate could do with starting Jordan Henderson or Jude Bellingham
- A key component to England’s fortunes is whether we can avoid France
Jack Grealish has the potential to be England’s best player at the Euros. This is his moment. When tournament football comes around, you need a player who will get the crowd on their feet. Jack is built for the occasion — the way he holds on to the ball, the way he draws fouls, the responsibility he takes to stamp his authority on big games.
He may not be the one who gets the goals but he will be the creator, the driving force. He will bring something England have not had for a while — someone who lights up the stadium.
Wayne Rooney did that when he caught fire at Euro 2004. Grealish has got that attitude, that swagger about his game.
Jack Grealish has got the potential to be England’s best player at the Euros this summer
The Aston Villa man is the style of player that can light up a stadium like Wayne Rooney in 2004
If England recreate that Euro 96 fever then Grealish could be this generation’s Gazza
You have got to have that type of ‘give-me-the-ball’ player at major tournaments. France had one in Zinedine Zidane. As good as Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit were, Zidane was the man. Give him the ball and he’ll create the magic to win the game. Grealish has the ability to be that player.
Harry Kane is a world-class striker. You need that on the big stage. Phil Foden has had the season of his life in a Manchester City shirt, too. Foden, Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham will all be key components and could have their special moments.
But this will be Grealish’s tournament. If we are to recreate that Euro 96 feeling, Grealish will be our Gazza. He’ll be the star.
And I think England have what it takes to go one better than back in ‘96 and reach the final. When you look at the crop of players at Gareth Southgate’s disposal, it is not unreasonable to think they can make it.
In this squad are players who have featured in Champions League and Europa League finals and also ones — Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier — who have extensive experience of playing club football abroad. They will have faced some of the players England will be up against.
A key component to all this is the draw. Can we avoid France?
Then look around the major teams in Europe. Italy are not what they used to be, although they are on a fantastic winning run.
Belgium are a very good team but their star player, Eden Hazard, is a long way short of top form. Croatia are an ageing side and won’t be too far off the team England faced in the World Cup semi-final. England, by contrast, have come a long way since then.
With the likes of Grealish, England have a team that could possibly reach the final
Spain have no Real Madrid players in their squad for the first time in their history.
Gareth has a great mix of players. There are so many different methods he can use to make this work.
My big concern, however, is the midfield. In the last four or five games I have watched, the midfield has not functioned well. Something about it seems a bit rigid, not flowing the way it should. The big complaint has been that we have not been getting enough bodies forward to help Kane. One of the reasons for that is because we have not played with our full-backs high enough up the field.
With Declan Rice in midfield, he can slot into a back three to allow the full backs to play high and wide. They can create the width and give England overloads using Foden, Grealish and Mount. That is where England can dictate games.
You sense Gareth is nervous about his defence. I will be very surprised if he does not start with Rice and Kalvin Phillips in there, if Jordan Henderson is not fit. But if I’m the Scotland duo John McGinn and Scott McTominay, I’m not scared of that pair one bit. Rice and Phillips would be better on their own. When I was at Newcastle, I used to play with Gary Speed or Kieron Dyer. Speedo would just say to me ‘You go’ and he’d stay back.
With Kieron, we would just look at each other and know who would sit and who’d go forward. Yet Rice and Phillips both enjoy doing the same thing, they both want to get the ball off the centre halves.
That’s why England could do with Henderson or Bellingham in the midfield mix.
Gareth may well look to play it safe and ease England into the tournament. But there could come a point where he looks at the attacking talent at his disposal and thinks: ‘I’ve just got to go and attack here.’
If that time comes, I don’t think he will be scared to push the button and go for it.
England could do with starting Jude Bellingham or Jordan Henderson during Euro 2020
Jesse Lingard should replace Trent Alexander-Arnold
Gareth Southgate faces a really tough decision over who to bring in to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold. So much depends on Harry Maguire and his fitness.
Southgate doesn’t want to lose two defenders. But if Maguire is fine, I think he will lean towards bringing in either Jesse Lingard or James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse can play anywhere, he’s even played at right back! He’s a set-piece specialist — England have lost one in Alexander-Arnold — and his fitness is excellent. He’s played every minute for the past two seasons. Ward-Prowse is a penalty taker, too. That’s always a factor to consider going into a tournament.
Then you have Lingard, who is a star. He is used to the occasion. He can carry the England shirt. He has had a brilliant season and I think he has the ability to impact games in the big moments off the bench. He is also coming into the tournament with huge confidence, which is key.
I would pick Lingard. I hope Gareth does, too.
Jesse Lingard would be my choice to fill the void left by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the squad
The team I would pick for the Euros
Who I’d select depends on whether Harry Maguire is fit. If he is, I’d go four at the back – Kyle Walker and John Stones next to Maguire and Luke Shaw.
A lot of that is based on the club understandings they have. I’d have Declan Rice sat on his own in the deep-lying pivot with two ahead of him in Mason Mount and Jordan Henderson. If Henderson isn’t fit, then Jude Bellingham.
If Maguire is not fit, I’m changing the system and going three at the back with Tyrone Mings alongside Walker and Stones.
In that system, there are wing-backs in Reece James and Ben Chilwell with two central midfielders sitting.
Either way, my front three is Jack Grealish off the left, Phil Foden off the right and Harry Kane through the middle.
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