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Dean Smith claims Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish is being "targeted" by Premier League opponents

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published: | Last Updated:

Dean Smith reckons Jack Grealish’s Gaelic football background is helping the Villa skipper cope with getting kicked in the Premier League.

Jack Grealish came in for rough treatment at Old Trafford.

Grealish is the most-fouled player in the top flight this season and Smith believes he deserves more protection from referees, after claiming the 24-year-old was ‘targeted’ in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United.

But the Villa boss has also warned opponents dishing out the rough stuff will not put Grealish off his game.

The Villa academy product played Gaelic football as a teenager and Smith said: “That’s a tough sport to play. Jack probably had a few whacks and he’s learned how to deal with it.

“He sees it as a prize for himself that teams want to give him a kick.

“He got chinned by a Blues fan (last season) and that didn’t seem to bother him as well! He gets whacked all the time but just gets on with it.”

Grealish was also the most-fouled player in the Championship last season, despite missing nearly three months of the season through injury.

Smith continued: “There was a bit of a tag team on him (at Old Trafford). When somebody gets targeted then they certainly need a lot more protection.

“I expected him to be the most fouled. He protects the ball so well, his balance is exceptional, he is a great ball carrier, and he does give defenders problems. It seems to be they want to foul him around the halfway line before he gets any further. We certainly got four or five of them at Old Trafford in the first half an hour.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher
@mjmarr_star

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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