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Martin Keown believes Jack Grealish can thrive on England expectation

·4-min read

Jack Grealish has been backed by former England defender Martin Keown to thrive under the weight of expectation – if he gets his chance at Euro 2020.

The Aston Villa captain shone in England’s two warm-up wins but has been restricted to a substitute appearance in Friday’s draw with Scotland thus far in the finals.

He has become a firm favourite among Three Lions supporters and his name was chanted around Wembley before he came off the bench in the 63rd minute.

Given the lack of creativity across their opening two games, Grealish could be in line for a first start when England close their Group D fixtures against the Czech Republic on Tuesday night knowing victory will see them advance in top spot.

If he does get the nod from manager Gareth Southgate, all eyes will be on the 25-year-old – but Keown thinks that is just what Grealish would want.

“I don’t think that is a problem for Jack Grealish, I think he thrives on that attention,” Keown told the PA news agency.

“The camera is constantly on him and he knows that, he has been outstanding for Aston Villa and has still only played eight games for England.

Grealish has impressed on his recent England outings.
Grealish has impressed on his recent England outings. (Carl Recine/PA)

“It is really the responsibility of the coaches as to where they put him when he is on the pitch, I think he could have come on more central against Scotland.

“It (starting Grealish) is an option and must be something Gareth is now seriously considering, that Grealish starts and he tinkers and makes a change in the midfield.

“Mason Mount could play deeper in midfield but then you have to decide who you leave out but Grealish must surely be really close to coming into the thinking.”

Keown – speaking as an ambassador for McDonald’s Fun Football programme – also wants to see Grealish and Phil Foden partnered on the pitch.

Southgate opted to replace Foden with Grealish against Scotland but Keown thinks the pair could work well in tandem.

Martin Keown takes part in the McDonald's fun football session at Oxford City Football Club.
Martin Keown takes part in the McDonald’s fun football session at Oxford City Football Club. (Paul Currie)

“I was really surprised to see Foden come off when he did, there was a clamour to get Grealish on but I didn’t really see why we took Foden off,” he said.

“Kalvin Phillips was quite magnificent in the first game but he had a quiet game and everything was very safe so it was an opportunity to move Mount back into midfield and bring Grealish on.

“It would have been as good an opportunity as ever to see that group of players together and we were denied that with the change that was made.”

Starting Grealish would also give Southgate another option in an attempt to get more service to Harry Kane.

The England skipper has yet to have a shot on target in the tournament and has been on the periphery of both games.

Southgate has said Kane will start against the Czech Republic despite his recent toils, with Keown keen to see the Tottenham striker revert back to a more traditional centre-forward role.

“We are finding it difficult to get Harry Kane into the game, he needs to stay higher and more central and it isn’t working at the moment,” he added.

“I think if I was a defender seeing him going ever deeper, you’re delighted.

Harry Kane has been taken off in both England games at Euro 2020.
Harry Kane has been taken off in both England games at Euro 2020. (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The further away from goal the better, you want him as far away from the goal as possible when you are playing against him.

“We know that Kane has adapted his game this season and that shows with the assists he got at Tottenham but he got into the habit of dropping deep and creating goals for Son.

“But for his country he needs to stay more central, higher up the pitch, and then we need to get the support in and around him.”

:: Arsenal and England legend Martin Keown is calling on families to sign up for McDonald’s free Fun Football sessions, which will get thousands of children playing football this summer. To find a local session go to: