WE are not quite at the point where Jack Grealish is imitating another Manchester City maverick and wearing a T-shirt asking: “Why Always Me?”
But after copping another blast from the legendary Graeme Souness, the most expensive English footballer in history might soon be borrowing Mario Balotelli’s old slogan.
The Brummie is no whinger — insisting criticism is inevitable with his £100million transfer fee and adamant that he “just wants to be friends with youse all” in the media.
Yet while Grealish is a cult hero with England fans, he has been getting it in the neck for his relative lack of goals and assists and also for his lifestyle.
He believes that three-time European Cup winner Souey has an agenda against him after the talkSPORT and Sky pundit claimed he is “a good player, not a great player”, that he takes too many touches and has not developed since last year’s move from Aston Villa.
But Grealish said he would rather take advice from Pep Guardiola than Souness.
Grealish, 27, said: “I don’t know what his problem is with me. He always says stuff about me.
“It is difficult [to ignore] when he’s on Sky Sports and it’s everywhere around the training ground.
“He was a great player and won a lot but I don’t know what problem he’s got.
“I know he’s said a lot of stuff about me not moving the ball quicker but when I’m playing for a manager like Pep Guardiola and he’s telling me to keep the ball as much as I can and have balls to take it everywhere, that’s what I’ll try to do.
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“I always watch my games back and I’m very critical of myself.
“I know that there were games, especially in the second half of last season, where I wasn’t at my best at all.
“I’ll always have people on my back. When I signed for City and the price that came with it, I knew it wasn’t going to all be laughs, unless I started the way Erling Haaland did. That’s the only way I wouldn’t get caned!”
Grealish, renowned for his Jack the Lad lifestyle, was also criticised for partying in Las Vegas and Ibiza this summer.
But he insists he came back for pre-season fitter than ever, only to suffer an injury against Bournemouth last month.
He said: “I’m just like a normal kid. I feel like I was just doing what a lot of other footballers do but sometimes I get more attention when I’m on holiday in Ibiza or Vegas.
“After that, I was putting up photos of me working. I don’t know if a lot of people spoke about that.
“I tried to come back as fit as possible and I felt I did.
“I know how professional I actually am.”
Grealish admits he is still adapting to his City role — having been captain and star player at Villa but now being one of several attacking talents at a club where he reckons even full-back Joao Cancelo is “one of the best wingers in the world”.
Despite being lambasted by pundits, England fans frequently demand that Gareth Southgate starts Grealish in more matches.
And with just two to play before the World Cup, starting with Friday’s Nations League match against Italy, Grealish claims he has a “great relationship” with the Three Lions boss.
England suffered a nightmare end to last season, especially a 4-0 drubbing by Hungary at Molineux, when Southgate was widely booed.
But Grealish said: “That was harsh. We reached the Euros final last year and the last time we lost a game in 90 minutes before the last camp was Belgium in November 2020.
“So I think it is very harsh — especially as you saw at the World Cup and the Euros how well the team did and the manager did.”
I’d love to start more but then again I know what an impact I can bring from the bench.
Asked whether Southgate was a “negative” coach — a frequent criticism from those wanting Grealish to have more game time — the City man claimed: “No, I don’t think so.
“Especially if you’re on about when he plays five at the back, then people always say how good our wing-backs are, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t try that [formation].
“We have great talent all over the pitch. I don’t think he is too negative or cautious at all.
“I’d love to start more but then again I know what an impact I can bring from the bench.
“I started one game in the Euros and got an assist, which I was over the moon about.
“I’d love to play every game. I feel I deal with pressure well.
“I probably haven’t been playing at the top of my game since I moved at the start of last season but I think I’ve shown glimpses.”
And you would imagine that Souness would not disagree with that last statement at all.