While most Aston Villa fans would argue that Jack Grealish deserves a run in the side, it’s clear that manager Paul Lambert doesn’t agree.
After breaking into the first-team setup at the start of the season, earning commendable reviews from four substitute league appearances and one Capital One Cup start, Grealish seemed set to become a significant part of Lambert’s plans moving forward, but opportunities have instead been few and far between since.
The promising winger has made just nine top-flight cameos this season for a total of 219 minutes and, after a recent start in the 1-0 FA Cup win over Blackpool, has failed to even make the bench for the past two defeats against Leicester and Liverpool.
Aged just 19, it’s somewhat understandable that Lambert has been cautious about placing too much pressure on his star prospect’s shoulders, but cutting him out of the picture altogether seems bizarre when he’s shown a great deal of potential in his limited time on the pitch.
All the more, with Villa’s scoring problems this season down, in part, to their lack of creativeness in the final third, giving Grealish a bigger role in the side would have seemed like a logical step to take.
In the December clash against Leicester at Villa Park, for example, the Birmingham-native’s 68th-minute introduction helped turn the tide of the match towards the home side’s favour, with the subsequent 2-1 win being the last time fans have seen their team claim three points in the league.
Given his ‘hometown hero’ status, Grealish is perhaps a touch overrated among supporters, as is often the case with the latest up-and-coming talent, but there’s more than enough reason for the claret and blue faithful to be maddened at Lambert’s mishandling of him up to this point.
It would be an acceptable compromise if he’d been sent out on loan in recent months instead of wasting his development on the bench, but the Scot even seems reluctant to allow him the chance of regular minutes in the Championship.
However, with the recent arrival of Spanish midfielder Carles Gil, it seems he could now be changing his tune, telling Sky Sports last week: “The only ones I would look at [loaning out] would be the younger kids, where we need to get them playing again.
“But, regarding the more experienced ones – the lads who are in the first-team squad, no.”
With the Daily Mail reporting interest from Brentford, Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Wolves this week, it seems a short-term stint in the second tier could well be imminent, and that’s no doubt a better situation than the occasional reserves run-out.
Nevertheless, Grealish should be getting time with the first-team, however raw he is, and if Lambert can’t understand that then it’s just another failing among his numerous as Villa boss.