Jack Grealish has revealed heart-to-heart talks with Gareth Southgate have turned him into an England regular.
Grealish, 25, made his England debut last September and the joke was that every time Southgate was asked about the Aston Villa captain he ended up talking about Mason Mount.
But Grealish is now front and centre of every conversation around England and whether he will start and a large part of that change has come about from those pep talks with Southgate.
Chelsea midfielder Mount is every manager’s favourite because he works so hard and mixes his flair with industry and Grealish admitted that he had to do the same and he also believes he is maturing as a player.
Grealish said: “I think I can still get better at that side of my game. I spoke to the staff here with England and when I come here I seem to run more in games than I do at Villa. I am not sure why that is.
“But I still think it is something I can improve on. I speak to the manager about these type of things. He’s the manager of England so he’s obviously going to be a brilliant coach, he’s helped my game massively.
“That’s one thing at the start of the season, like I said before, when I said: ‘what can I improve upon?’ When I first came into the camp I sat down with the manager for about an hour or so and asked what I could improve on to get into his side.
“I’m not saying that he says to me: ‘you need to go and run and get back and stuff,’ he didn’t actually say that. But we had a chat for a while, which was obviously a good chat that I had with him, but deep down I knew that was something I could work on.
“I went away and worked on that. I still think it is one side of my game that I can improve upon. I also knew that I was always going to grow up and mature a bit more, too.”
Grealish went through the whole repertoire of players he used to idolise and look up to from Wayne Rooney, to a compliment from Paul Gascoigne and even a question from an Italian journalist on Francesco Totti who he “grew up watching.”
But with his socks rolled down his ankles and his unique dribbling style which draws fouls and free kicks by the dozen, Grealish is an entertainer in his own right and that is something that will never disappear from his game.
Grealish is relishing his first major tournament and does also feel that England can feed off the disappointment of the 2018 World Cup semi final when they lost to Croatia in Sunday’s Group opener against the same opponents.
He added: “I was devastated actually. Watching the game. We can definitely use it as inspiration. Croatia are a brilliant side. They have talented players all over the pitch from big clubs as well.
“It’s a game we’ll go into full of confidence, I feel we’ve had good preparation and I feel we’ll have a good week this week as well. We’ve played them a few times now and we know it will be a difficult game but something we’re looking forward to and we’ll cherish every moment.”