Paul Gascoigne, who Grealish has been compared to by former managers and players, had to prove to Bobby Robson that his unpredictable talent could be harnessed within a team before going on to help England to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and win 57 caps – the last of which came when Grealish was aged just two.

“Of course I know about Gazza,” Grealish said. “I don’t really see myself as him, but I would love to be like him, the way that he played football. He played with such joy. I think everyone who watched him could see that. That is what I want to do.

“One of the biggest compliments for people to say to you is that you make them happy watching football. I would love to get compared to Gazza. I think he is an absolute icon. Him, along with Wayne Rooney, was probably one of the greatest England players over the last 30 years. There have been a load [of good players], but if they were the top two, Gazza would be my first.”

It is hard to believe that a player who approached his first England start with such confidence could be struck down by stage fright, but that is exactly what happened when ­Grealish attended his first national trials aged 15.

“I was just a young lad, going to meet up with all the best players from England, and it was a big difference from what I was used to,” Grealish said. “When I got there, I woke up in the middle of the night and went to go to the toilet. My room-mate, who was Diego Poyet, Gus Poyet’s son, heard a bang and then I just woke up in the bathroom. I had obviously collapsed.

“I didn’t want to go home the following day, but England said they thought it was best that I did. From then on, I went to play for Ireland through the youth levels and I ­carried on with them because of how much I enjoyed it.

“But as I got older I realised I am English, my family is English and in the future that’s what I want to do. And I want to be in the squad now for the next, however long – five, six years – and I want to have a long England career and get many caps.” 

Source Article