Jack Grealish has hit back at criticism received by Graeme Souness after he said he ‘held the ball for too long’ at Aston Villa.
The England international is now one of the best players in the Premier League after finding his feet at Manchester City.
It took him time to adapt after his £100million move from Villa, a club where he was regarded as the boy wonder after breaking into the first team fold.
As a key player at the club, Grealish was tasked with single-handedly dictating play in the middle of the park, leading to long spells on the ball.
Grealish specifically remembers being criticised by Liverpool legend Souness for holding onto the ball during his time with his hometown club, something that he says still frustrates him about the game today.
Asked about the criticism, Grealish told the Daily Mail: “Oh don’t.
“The way some of the TV pundits talk I can’t actually catch my breath sometimes. It’s as if they never played bad themselves.
“Graeme was an unbelievable player. But he used to say I held on to the ball too long. I was like, ‘Mate, I play for Aston Villa’. A lot of the time we didn’t have the ball so when we did the manager told me to keep it.
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“It’s the same here. Everyone sees Pep as a tiki-taka manager but before the Bayern game away in the Champions League he said, ‘You know what having balls is? It’s about being the one to keep the ball, to calm the game down’.”
“So you do that and you get criticised. It’s tricky. When I was at Villa nobody had paid any money for me so it didn’t matter if I played bad. Also, 90 per cent of the games were not live on TV so people wouldn’t notice anyway.
“It is different now but I will be honest here — if I have played well I go back home and watch everything and listen to the commentary and what they say afterwards.
“If I play s***, I will not listen to a word they say.”