Jack Grealish’s fall from grace is a reflection of Paul Gascoigne – but Jack is not really Gazza

“I would love to be like Gaza.” This was Jack Grealish’s stated mission as he embarked on his senior career in England. Four years later, he can consider, in the saddest sense, a fulfilled quest.

A player who has drawn so many similarities with Paul Gascoigne, for his genius as a player and for the inconsistency of his manner, he now has less enviable distinction with the fearsome intelligence he once possessed, and himself aside from a contest where he should. there is a star.

Indeed, the theater of absurdity surrounding Gascoigne was not the bane of Grealish, who learned he had been left out of the 1998 World Cup squad during a tense five-minute meeting in Glenn Hoddle’s La Manga hotel room, with Kenny G’s smooth saxophone at go on their background stereo.

This time all it took was one terrifying training conversation with Gareth Southgate to confirm the decision that was Manchester City’s £100 million player’s worst fear. In 2½ weeks, he has gone from caressing a third straight Premier League winner’s medal to watching his England plans reduced to matchwood. In the annals of falls from favour, it could hardly have been quicker – or more brutal.

Gascoigne is the ultimate study in the uncertainty of an international star’s life. At 29, he was the toast of Euro ’96, with his volley against Scotland among the greatest in the English canon. At 57, he’s still a recovering alcoholic, recently admitting to staying in his agent’s spare bedroom and trying hard not to relapse into a “sad drunk”.

It’s a trajectory that should be used as an object lesson in the dangers of soaring too high, too fast. And yet Gascoigne’s comparisons shun any young player who shows even a hint of his skill. Stuart Pearce was just there this week, taking on Kobbie Mainoo for a Gazza-esque breakthrough.

But it was Grealish who felt Gascoigne’s shadow the sharpest. Even before he scored his first England goal, Steve McClaren was brazenly saying: “We haven’t had him for a long time, that kind of Gazza. It’s that kind of thing.” Is it, truly? While Gascoigne was England’s icon in the 1990s, crediting his “daft from his brush” performances with Bobby Robson to being a brilliant midfield schemer, Grealish scored twice in four years for his nation, earning 21 of his 36 caps as substitute.

Furthermore, in an inversion of the logic that anyone who plays under Pep Guardiola comes into his own after his first season, Grealish has turned his back on City. Even going 2-0 down in the FA Cup final, the manager turned to Jeremy Doku for encouragement.

If we’re being honest, the only way Grealish has shown Gascoigne of late is his penchant for drunken celebration. His rant after last year’s Champions League final was a classic of the oeuvre: walking through Istanbul’s mixed zone with a can of Heineken in his Louis Vuitton man bag, he went off for an Ibiza binge so extreme that he came up for City’s. Open-top bus parade both sleepless and shirtless.

Jack Grealish -

Jack Grealish was front and center in Manchester City’s celebrations – Getty Images/Oli Scarff

And why not, you might ask. After all, his club were only runners-up to England to win the Treble. The trouble is, however, that he insists on such an old story more often than is advisable.

Take the night of City’s league win last month, when Grealish was spotted leaving the after-party at 4.45am. Was this the best look for a player who still had another domestic trophy to fight for six days later? And was it the right image to convey to Southgate just two weeks out from England’s first warm-up game for a major tournament?

Jack Grealish - Jack Grealish's fall from grace is similar to Paul Gascoigne's - but Jack is not really GazzaJack Grealish - Jack Grealish's fall from grace is similar to Paul Gascoigne's - but Jack is not really Gazza

Jack Grealish pictured looking worse for wear during Manchester City celebrations – Getty Images/Aaron Parfitt

A wise one would decide against it. This is not the Terry Venables era, when Gascoigne’s mouth watered with glee after his Wembley wonder goal in 1996, when the England team re-enacted the infamous “dentist’s chair” incident involving spirits. in his throat at Hong Kong. Pub.

Southgate has demanded a much higher standard of professionalism, memorably telling James Maddison he needs to be “high performance, low maintenance” after the midfielder leaves the England squad in 2022 due to illness, only to be photographed at a casino.

After Marcus Rashford’s tirade in Belfast earlier this year, he heard a similar note, warning him about his behavior “on and off the pitch”. Against this background, it’s reasonable to ask whether Grealish was his own worst enemy as he got away on the night.

There is no doubting his dismay as Southgate described him as “devastated” as a number of England players rallied around him to offer consolation. But it’s the kind of reckoning that should make him question the path he’s taking.

Gascoigne, after trashing his hotel room after the Hoddle snub, never played for England again. That Grealish could be missing out on a European Championship at the age of 28 is not fate.

But the reality is that he faces a stark crossroads where he can use his unfortunate moment as a source of bitterness or fuel to ensure he never feels the same way again. For his sake, you hope he chooses the latter road, rediscovering the gifts that commanded a nine-figure sum while using the Jack-the-lad impulses within.

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