Dean Smith: Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish has long been targeted by opponents

Dean Smith claims being a “targeted” man is nothing new for Jack Grealish after the Villa skipper came in for rough treatment during Saturday’s defeat to Brighton.

Jack Grealish, left, was fouled seven times during Villa's defeat to Brighton on Saturday.
Jack Grealish, left, was fouled seven times during Villa's defeat to Brighton on Saturday.

Grealish was awarded seven free-kicks against the Seagulls and Smith later described the 25-year-old, the most fouled player in the Premier League this season, as having been kicked “from pillar to post”.

But while Grealish’s profile has never been higher, following his recent England breakthrough, Smith believes such treatment is nothing new.

He said: “I felt Brighton tried to stop Jack but he still created chances.

“He got kicked from pillar to post at times but I still believe we are creating good chances that should have helped us win. It hasn’t stopped since I first came to this club, Jack Grealish is a targeted man.”

Villa are waiting to learn the extent of the hamstring injury which forced Ross Barkley off just five minutes into the 2-1 defeat.

The early exit of the Chelsea loanee set the tone for a frustrating afternoon which ended in a third consecutive home loss for Smith’s team.

Though the match ended controversially, with referee Michael Oliver awarding Villa a stoppage time penalty before then changing his mind, Smith placed the focus on the hosts inability to take chances.

He said: “There is no way Brighton deserved to take three points. But if we don’t take chances, it’s not a recipe for success.

“I looked at the game before and thought it would be tough but I thought we were the better team.

“Unfortunately we get judged on the result but they can be skewed at times. We have come on from last season but we knew we would.

“The home form is a concern. We have lost our supporters but the Leeds game is the only one I feel we deserved to lose.”

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