It was quite the return for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, who certainly had a day to remember on Saturday as a dominant first-half performance saw Villa beat Derby County 4-0 in the Championship.
Not only was it Grealish’s first match back in the team since middle December after suffering a shin problem, but manager Dean Smith also handed the 23-year-old the captain’s armband for the encounter with Frank Lampard’s men.
And, it was as if Grealish – now valued at £18m by Transfermarkt – was never out injured, producing a clinical display in the centre of pitch that saw him pin excellent deliveries to the likes of Tammy Abraham, while he scored an absolute rocket of a goal just before half-time, hitting a Glenn Whelan corner on the volley from just outside of the box, which flew into the top-left corner of the Derby goal.
The Rams went into the clash at Villa Park on the back of a couple of poor results but definitely would have fancied themselves against a Villa team, who also weren’t in the best of forms heading into the match.
Grealish’s presence certainly brought a fresh sense of calmness to the Villa team that hasn’t been visible for a number of matches now. It was also, therefore, no surprise that it was Villa’s first league win in six encounters.
Despite being solid in defence, which was probably the most pleasing thing to see from this Villa team at the moment, Grealish was his elegant and talented self in attack and it almost looked as if he had a lot of time on the ball before giving good passes and long-balls.
The victory means Villa are now only six points of a playoff spot but it became quite evident from Saturday’s performance that they will need Grealish to continue bossing the midfield as he did on Saturday if the club was to have any chance of pulling off the miracle of earning promotion to the Premier League next season.