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Jack Grealish has “learned an enormous amount” at Manchester City, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.
Grealish became the most expensive player in British football history last year when he moved to City from the boys’ club Aston Villa for £ 100 million, but played only 10 goals involved in his first season at the Etihad Stadium (six goals, four assists).
He played 39 games in all competitions (31 starts) for Pep Guardiola’s team, but created more chances from open play (76) than any other City player except Kevin De Bruyne (94).
The 26-year-old came off the bench for England on Tuesday and impressed as the Three Lions were able to force a late 1-1 draw against Germany in Munich.
Speaking ahead of his team’s next Nations League clash with Italy, Southgate told a news conference that he has seen improvements in Grealish since his big money move to City, where he won the Premier League title.
“It’s important for all of our players that they feel they understand how we want to play,” Southgate said.
“We give them a structure and we prepare them for the matches, but within that, with their own talents and their own, we want them to come out. That’s what makes the difference in the games.
“Jack had a great impact on the game when he came in [against Germany]. I know he enjoys his football with us, but he also enjoys his football with his club, so I think it’s important to say that. He has learned a great deal by being part of a team that has won the Premier League, which is hugely important to him.
“He’s a player we love to work with. He has a great mentality, a great character and I think he’s a really good guy to have around the group. He has the joy of having a football for his feet that adds so much when you see players in training every day. ”
—England (@England) June 10, 2022
England face Italy in a rematch of the European Championship 2020 final on Saturday, and Southgate said the fact that the match will be played behind closed doors at Molineux thanks to a ban imposed by UEFA following crowd problems at Wembley before last year’s final is a “embarrassment”.
“If it’s an embarrassment, it’s for England as a country,” he said. “Many of the people who caused the problems, I’m not sure, were football fans.
“We talked enough about it, we talked about it after the final, and when the punishment was first given, I would say that the vast majority of our fans who traveled to Germany on Tuesday behaved brilliantly, a big thank you to them, because maybe people thought something else, but there was a large majority that was a credit.
The England boss is expected to change his squad as he looks for his first win of the Nations League campaign, and Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse is hoping he can take his chance if he is one of the selected winger.
“The manager used to highlight about seeing certain types of players in different types of games, and hopefully if that opportunity comes up, then it’s a good opportunity for me to show what I can do against a high level of resistance,” the free-kick specialist said. “It will be a good opportunity to hopefully get a few minutes.
“Everyone here is in the squad because they perform well for their club – and you can see that in the training. The level is so, so high, and to have missed the European Championship squad, it was a big obstacle for me to overcome.
“I see this as a new challenge now, a new opportunity, and I think it has given me a little more of an incentive on my way into this World Cup announcement that I want to be there, I want to be a part of this amazing group and hopefully repeat the success we had. “