Aston Villa development team coach Ben Petty receives few headlines for his work at the club, but youngster Jack Grealish insists the former Stoke City defender has been fundamental to his progress.
Aged 19, Grealish has been hailed as one of the Premier League’s most exciting prospects after making his first-team breakthrough this season, earning encouraging reviews from four brief top-flight outings and one Capital One Cup start thus far.
His undoubted promise saw Villa move to tie him down to a new deal last month which will keep at his childhood club until 2018, thwarting reported interest from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the process.
Now recognised as one of the team’s main’s building blocks for the future, the Birmingham-native stresses, however, that he wouldn’t have made it this far without Petty’s guidance through the youth ranks.
“Ben Petty has always been there for me and he has been a massive help,” he told the Birmingham Mail.
“He was my U9 coach and he worked his way up to become the youth team manager. It sounds strange but he’s been like a second dad to me because I can tell him anything.
“He’s always there for advice and it’s been good to have someone like that to turn to.
“Ben is that guy who will be there if I have any issues at the club.”
Despite his undoubted potential, Grealish hasn’t featured much in recent weeks for Villa, with his last appearance coming in the 2-0 home defeat against Manchester City last month, and the promising winger admits that he still has a long way to go to match the club's other hometown heroes.
“I look at some of the other players who have come through the academy and who are playing week in, week out, following in the footsteps of someone like Gabby Agbonlahor,” he said.
“That’s my motivation and I’m really determined to do everything I can to contribute to the club."