Aston Villa boss Dean Smith believes Jack Grealish possesses “star quality” and is doing everything possible to earn a maiden England call-up.
Villa captain Grealish is enjoying the most prolific season of his career and secured an important point for his side with a superb second-half equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Brighton.
The 24-year-old midfielder has nine goals for the campaign in all competitions and has also chipped in with five Premier League assists.
England manager Gareth Southgate has so far resisted calls for Grealish to be capped at senior international level but, with Euro 2020 on the horizon, Smith feels his skipper is difficult to ignore.
“Everyone is taking notice of him because of the way he’s playing. He’s turned into an all-round player,” said Smith.
“But the beauty of Jack is he’s a great guy as well. And he keeps pushing us as coaches to make him better and when you’ve got that attitude and that application then you’re going to be a top player.
“People will take notice of him, that’s for sure, and he’s doing what he can to get himself noticed by the England squad.
“We’ve got a really good dressing room of players who have got an awful lot of potential.
“They are all willing learners but at the moment Jack’s got a little bit of star quality about him and the players can see that as well.”
Uncapped Grealish, who switched international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland in 2015, briefly played under Southgate at under-21 level.
He has performed various midfield roles for Villa since breaking through from the academy in 2014 but has recently excelled as a goalscoring playmaker.
Smith is a big admirer of Grealish’s desire for self-improvement and feels his team’s influential top scorer is relishing the buzz of regularly finding the net.
“When I first took over – I think we were 15, 16 games into the season – I asked him how many goals he had scored and he said, ‘one’,” said Smith, who was appointed by Villa in October 2018 before guiding them to promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.
“How many assists? ‘None’.
“He needs to be getting into areas where he’s going to be able to score goals and we’ve got him higher up the pitch and he’s got a good habit now of being a goalscorer and he’s starting to love that feeling of being a goalscorer as well and he wants more.
“When somebody wants more, they keep working that little bit harder and he’ll score more this season, that’s for sure.”
Despite snatching a point at the Amex Stadium after falling behind to Leandro Trossard’s first-half opener, Villa remain in the relegation zone, a point from safety.
They host fellow strugglers Watford on Tuesday, just over three weeks since suffering a crushing 3-0 defeat at Vicarage Road.
“I think that was a big wake-up call for everybody – myself included,” Smith said of the loss in Hertfordshire.
“The performance was nowhere near good enough and the players knew that, we spoke about it and we’ve had a response from them.”