Dean Smith has refused to join the chorus of disapproval over Jack Grealish’s omission from England’s last two Nations League sides.
Grealish earned rave reviews after making an impressive full debut in last week’s friendly victory against Wales, but was an unused substitute in the following win against Belgium and for Wednesday’s defeat by Denmark.
England fans took to social media to express their disapproval at Gareth Southgate’s decision not to play the Villa midfielder, but Smith looked on the positive side.
“I was really pleased that Jack Grealish got his first start for England and put in a man-of-the-match performance,” Smith told a press conference before Sunday’s Premier League game at Leicester.
“The beneficiary of him not playing in the other games is Aston Villa because he’ll come back fresh.”
Smith is hoping his other internationals can all help his side maintain their momentum following their 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool before the international break.
“John McGinn got the armband for Scotland for the first time and he’s played three games, Conor Hourihane (Republic of Ireland) has played three games, Bertrand Traore’s gone away and scored in both games for Burkina Faso and Douglas Luiz has started both games for Brazil,” Smith said.
“I’m proud of all the players that went away on international duty, and that includes Jack and Tyrone (Mings).”
Villa’s stunning victory over Jurgen Klopp’s champions extended their 100 per cent start to three games this season and lifted them up to second place in the table.
“Momentum is key,” Smith said. “There’s an awful lot of belief in the team. There’s a lot of quality in the team as well and I think that performance against Liverpool proved that.
“But if we want to be talked about in glowing terms, then you have to make sure you maintain that.
Smith: “Momentum is key, there is an awful lot of belief and quality within the team and the performance against Liverpool proved that, but we have to maintain that."— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) October 16, 2020
“We’ve got a really tough game against Leicester where we want to exorcise some demons that occurred pre-lockdown.”
Smith was referring to his side’s 4-0 defeat at Leicester in March before last season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Villa were in the middle of a 10-game winless Premier League run and only avoided relegation after taking eight points from their final four matches.
“We have to be very respectful of a team that’s gone to Manchester City and won 5-2,” Smith added. “We won 7-2 against Liverpool, so there’s two teams there that are very good.
“We’ve started the season well, there’s confidence within the group and a belief that we’re better this season. It’s a tough game, but one we’re looking forward to.”
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