Roy Hodgson was England’s manager when Jack Grealish changed allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, although he never had time to give the Aston Villa star a chance.
Playing for Ireland as a boy, Grealish chose to play for England in April 2016, performing at this year’s Toulon tournament.
Hodgson was the manager of the senior team at the time, although not for long – he resigned after a 2-1 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.
Grealish became the star of his club and made his England debut earlier this season, impressing Gareth Southgate’s team in his performances since then.
Villa faced Hodgson’s Crystal Palace team on a boxing day, and the Eagles boss is thrilled with Grealish’s development.
“I always believed in him,” Hodgson said. “I’m impressed with the constant improvement over the years, especially the last two seasons. Last season I thought he was very good and showed a different maturity and level in his game. If nothing else, he moved on this year. Now he’s first on everyone’s lips when you are preparing for the match against Villa, because he is someone you know you will have to try to stop or at least limit the good things he can do during the game. “
Meanwhile, villa boss Dean Smith is thrilled with the turnaround in wealth his team managed during 2020.
“It was a strange year for everyone. No one had gone through a pandemic before, so a lot of new things happened,” Smith said. “Maintaining the status of the club in the Premier League was very important to us. We put in after the March period was very important to us for that.
“The turnaround in trust at the football club was really good to see. Let it last a long time.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aston Villa – Ross Barkley
Smith hopes Barkley will be able to perform on Saturday after overcoming a tendon problem. The midfielder started well at Villa, but he has not been in the team since he suffered an injury from the last defeat by Brighton and Howe Albion.
Crystal Palace – Nathaniel Clyne
Former Liverpool defender Clyne has scored three of his four Premier League goals against Aston Villa, a net with three of his seven shots against Villans. With his other 88 shots in the first flight, he scored only once, against Liverpool in August 2014.
KEY OPTA FACTS
• Villa have won two of their last three Premier League games against Palace (L1), as they have in the previous 12 against them in the competition (W2 D5 L5).
• Palace have never scored more than once in 17 away league games against Villa (W3 D4 L10), scoring a total of 11 goals in that series.
• Villa has so far maintained seven clean sheets of the Premier League this season, more than any other side and as many as it held throughout 2019-20. The Villans have not conceded any of their last three Premier League games, most recently having a long streak of first-tier eliminations in February 2010 (four).
• This will be Roy Hodgson’s 341st Premier League chief, who has overtaken Rafael Benitez among the top 10 for all-time competitions played in the competition.
• Villa’s Anwar El-Ghazi has scored three goals in his last three Premier League games, as he has in the previous 34 in the competition.