It was two hours and 21 minutes after the transfer deadline on Thursday that Jack Grealish took to Twitter and wrote: ‘Let’s get to work.’
The midfielder had quickly come to terms with the disappointment that his £25million move to Tottenham hadn’t happened and renewed his vows with Aston Villa.
On Saturday, in front of an adoring Villa Park crowd, Grealish did precisely what he had promised. He got down to work.
He illuminated a dreary afternoon in the Midlands with a display packed with neat touches, shimmies infield and deft through-passes.
The fans responded every time he got the ball, a frisson of excitement coursing around the ground, and even his manager Steve Bruce admitted he would pay good money to watch the 22-year-old. It was evident that Grealish is that little step above his Championship contemporaries, a Premier League player stranded in the wrong division. For now.
All he can do is continue to perform as he did in Villa’s win over Wigan and there is every chance that Spurs — or another top-flight side — will make an offer for him in January.
Bruce went over and put an arm around Grealish after the final whistle, just seconds after Birkir Bjarnason had scored the winner, and later asked referees to do more to protect his player.
With his socks rolled down and bulging calf muscles exposed above those fancy feet, Grealish does invite rough treatment and Wigan didn’t hesitate to put the boot in.
‘He is a natural and he draws a foul because he beats you,’ said Bruce. ‘And how good is that, we don’t see it very often. But they have to protect him.
‘He reproduced the form that he produced last year that made him into a £30m footballer and he looked it today, every penny a £30m footballer. For me, he was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. That’s how good he was.’
The fact that Villa were able to repel Tottenham’s advances for Grealish was all down to their new owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, who also released funds in the nick of time so that Bruce could sign the impressive John McGinn from Hibernian.
A summer of uncertainty has been followed by Villa winning their opening two league matches for the first time since John Gregory was in charge in 1999-2000.
‘It’s been a difficult summer for everybody, but the new owners breathed life into everybody and took away the doom and gloom,’ said Bruce.
‘To give you an example, I’d have loved to buy McGinn six weeks ago but couldn’t. We’ve bought a very good player and that wasn’t possible four weeks ago. What’s more, Jack wouldn’t have been here, Jonathan Kodjia wouldn’t have been here and nor would James Chester. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.’