Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has revealed he thought he was going to leave the club 10 months ago before this season’s Premier League return.
Villa defeated Derby County 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in the Championship play-off final on Bank Holiday Monday to secure their return to England’s top division after three years away.
Grealish’s transfer saga: Five things you need to know…
- Aston Villa lost last season’s play-off final 1-0 against Fulham, leaving the club in dire straights financially.
- Starman Grealish was heavily linked with a move to Spurs, who bid £25 million last summer.
- However, despite Grealish’s disappointment, Villa rejected all approaches for the midfielder.
- This season, Grealish has impressed, scoring six goals in 31 Championship appearances and being named captain by boss Dean Smith.
- Grealish’s contract doesn’t expire until the summer of 2023.
Speaking to reporters after Aston Villa’s impressive performance in their 2-1 play-off final victory against a Derby side led by former Chelsea man Frank Lampard, Grealish admitted that he is overjoyed with achieving promotion with his boyhood club.
However, he also publically stated that he thought he wouldn’t have the chance to achieve the fete because he wouldn’t be at the club beyond last summer in the pursuit of Premier League football.
Grealish said: “I’m speechless, I really am. I can’t even explain to you how happy I am. It means the world, we all know where this club belongs.
“I thought I was going, 10 months later I’m here now and I’ve led my boyhood club back to the Premier League as captain and scored against the Blues twice – perfect season.”
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Villa finally back in the big time
It hasn’t been the easiest of decades for those from the Midlands who follow the claret and blue but this season’s finale will help ease some of the headaches caused across the past few years.
Villa haven’t finished in the top half of the Premier League since 2011, where they ended the 2010/11 season in ninth place, a lofty height compared to what followed.
Four consecutive seasons that saw Villa finish 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th respectively finally culminated in the club dropping out of the Premier League bottom of the pile in 2016.
A consolidating season in the Championship saw Villa finish 13th, struggling to cope with the vast change of conditions both on the pitch and financially.
However, a strong 2017/18 campaign saw Villa finish fourth, bypassing Middlesbrough in the play-offs, only to lose to Fulham at the final hurdle.
But that heartache will now be forgotten – or at least, comforted – by their professional performance against Derby County in this season’s play-off final, with the club showing real character to reach the play-off final for the second successive season, only to this time finish victorious.