Jack Grealish believes the only way to top last season’s treble-winning glory with Manchester City is to help fire England to Euro 2024 success.
The 28-year-old played a pivotal role in City capturing the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League as Pep Guardiola’s side swept away all in front of them.
Grealish has endured an injury-hit start to the new campaign as a severe dead leg saw him miss almost a month of action.
He returned to the City starting line-up for their 3-1 Champions League win at RB Leipzig last week and is back in the England squad ahead of the upcoming Wembley double-header against Australia and Italy.
Grealish admits improving on such a historic 2022/23 season is not an easy task – but is targeting tournament success as with England as the next milestone.
“I don’t mean this to sound weird, but it is difficult in a way because you have such a high of winning the treble and then you do think ‘what would ever top that?’,” he said.
“Obviously doing something at international level definitely would. But then even at club level you think ‘what would top it?’ Maybe to win all four including the Carabao Cup but we went out of that last week.
“You probably think about doing an ‘Invincibles’ season, but we got beat. To do what we did last year again would be unbelievable and to do something at international level with this group of players would be unbelievable.
“After the season that I had with City, it was an unbelievable season, one of the best of my career especially in the second half of the season when I was playing a lot more, playing with confidence.”
Southgate: Grealish has grown as a player
Grealish reckons England boss Gareth Southgate has “one of the hardest jobs in the world” – not made easier by what he feels is an unrivalled amount of talent in attacking positions.
Southgate, in turn, hailed the changes he has seen in Grealish since his move to the Etihad Stadium from Aston Villa in 2021.
“He has grown as a player,” said Southgate. “He has always been a fabulous talent – and I’ve always got to be careful not to upset Villa fans – but I think moving to a club where he had to win every week, pressure on every week and demands of his coach… you develop different attributes and become a more rounded player, and those experiences are with him now.
“He has great experiences with us, with his club, we have got different personalities in our squad and characters like Jack, like James Maddison, like Trent (Alexander-Arnold), lads that view the world differently, see the pitch differently, that’s what makes the squad.”
Southgate: Experimental England must have right mindset vs Australia
Meanwhile, Southgate wants England’s players to be mentally “spot-on” and grab their opportunity to impress as he experiments against old sporting rivals Australia.
The Euro 2020 runners-up can seal their place at next summer’s edition in Germany when they host holders Italy at Wembley in Tuesday’s Group C encounter. But first comes just England’s second friendly since March 2022 after a run of 16 consecutive competitive matches came to an end with last month’s 3-1 victory at Scotland.
Southgate avoided over-experimenting in Glasgow but still managed to try new things, just as he will in Friday’s sold-out encounter under the arch against the Socceroos.
“It’s one of the great sporting rivalries and if Australia have any sniff that we’re not taking the game seriously, then we will be in trouble,” the England boss said. “Our mindset has got to be spot on. Equally, we’ve still got a bit of work to do to qualify for a European Championship, but we are potentially six games away from that.
“We have good players and we need to give people opportunities to show what they can do.
“That is part of our bond as a team, making sure people get chances to play and feel part of the group and important within that, so we have to get that right balance.
“Most importantly, we have got good players and we need to have them in positions on the field where they can do their best work and feel comfortable, positions they play with their clubs, so that the transfer is as smooth as possible.”
‘Chance for England players to make their mark’
Jarrod Bowen will be hoping to make a dream Wembley debut after the West Ham star returned to the England set-up for the first time since September 2022.
Chelsea defender Levi Colwill could make his debut, while uncapped Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah and in-form Aston Villa frontman Ollie Watkins will hope to stake their claims as back-up to skipper Harry Kane.
Southgate would not confirm who will captain England on Friday, but it appears unlikely that Bayern Munich sharpshooter Kane will be leading the line from the start.
Asked if the Australia game is a chance for players to make their mark, the England boss said: “Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things we always want to do is to make playing for England enjoyable.
“It’s to take the tension out of playing for England, we want the lads to express themselves. Equally, when you play for England there is a pressure and you know that you’re not going to get 10 opportunities unless you play well.
“Every player that comes into the squad experiences that, has always done. So, you can’t relieve that. No matter what I say to a player, he’s going to know that, so players coming in they are opportunities and you have to grasp them. But they’ve had to do that at every stage of their career as well, when they first got into a club as a young player or when they first got in the first team at the club.
“They are used to that and all of them are more than capable of going and playing incredibly well, and they’ll also be very excited about a full house at Wembley and the opportunity to play there.”