BIRMINGHAM, England — A symbol of the “too much, too soon” generation of promising young players in English football, Jack Grealish is being warned that his party lifestyle could ruin his career after Aston Villa launched an investigation into his latest off-field antics.
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has generated more negative publicity after newspaper reports said police were called to a hotel to deal with complaints about an all-night party allegedly attended by Grealish, following Villa’s second-tier game against Ipswich on Saturday.
Roberto Di Matteo is the latest Villa manager to speak out about Grealish’s activities away from the football field.
“He needs to grow up very quickly,” Di Matteo said Thursday. “It’s not the first time, and he needs to understand (that) if he wants a good career he has to stop.”
After some impressive cameos for Villa in the 2014-15 season and early last season, Grealish — a technically gifted player — was touted as a potential star of the Premier League and caught in the middle of a fight between England and Ireland for his services. He said in September last year that he would represent England at international level, weeks after then-England manager Roy Hodgson said: “We think he could have a very good international career.”
However, his professionalism had been called into question by then. Grealish apologized to former Villa manager Tim Sherwood in April 2015 after being pictured inhaling from balloons at a party, and was pictured passed out in the street on holiday in the Spanish party resort of Tenerife the following offseason.
Sherwood’s successor, Remi Garde, dropped Grealish last season after the midfielder partied in Manchester following a 4-0 loss to Everton in November, and made him spend time training with the club’s youth team.
“When I was at Chelsea, I remember there were a couple of youngsters coming through. They made some mistakes,” Di Matteo said. “Some learnt from it and went on to have great careers. Others didn’t learn from it and didn’t have such good careers.”
Villa was relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, and Grealish has started the new campaign in the second-tier League Championship in good form, earning him the reward of a new four-year contract this month. He was a member of the England under-21 squad that won the Toulon tournament in May.
Villa said Grealish has not been fined or disciplined yet, although both options remain open to the club.
“We instantly started an internal investigation … which is still ongoing,” Di Matteo said. “When it is finished, we will see what disciplinary action to take.”