City boss Smith wary of Grealish factor ahead of reunion
- Credit: PA
Dean Smith is warning Norwich City must stop the best player he has worked with, in £100m man Jack Grealish, ahead of his first reunion with the Manchester City attacker.
Grealish scored his first goal for Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side, following his British record-breaking transfer from Aston Villa, in August’s 5-0 Premier League win over the Canaries.
But the England international is yet to establish himself as the headline act at the runaway leaders, who head to Carrow Road on Saturday evening.
“Jack’s a top player,” said his former boss. “I think he's shown moments at Manchester City. I still speak to Jack quite regularly and he wants to find more consistency within the team but he's playing among star players there and he's one of them itself.
"He's enjoying it, enjoying the experience of being amongst those star players but also working with the likes of Pep Guardiola.
"He is learning more and more. But he's a top talent and a top lad as well. Anybody who has worked with him will tell you that.
“It was wonderful to work with him. He's the best player I've worked with. He has immense talent. A little sign of his mentality as well, I think I'd been at (Aston Villa) the club about six months and I said something in the press he was one of the best players I've worked with.
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"He came to see me the following morning and he’d obviously watched my interview and he wanted to know the other players who were as good as him.
“But it wasn't him being big headed, he just had that hunger and desire to be the best and wanted to get better. We had a great relationship and still have as well. He's from a wonderful family.
"It's hard to lose your best player but I fully understood he needed to move to that next level. And although we'd progressed at Aston Villa it probably wasn't at the level he needed to be now.”
Smith insists the public perception of bad boy Grealish is well wide of the mark.
“I got more phone calls from people praising him for what he's done for disadvantaged people,” said Smith. “I saw a video of him the other day stopping to sign a shirt for a supporter. He does that all the time.
"But unfortunately, people don't want to write in the press about doing stuff like that.
“The Acorns hospice is just one example where he spent a lot of time. He's a real family guy but people can make one mistake and have it shoved down their throats. Unfortunately if you make three or four as a top professional footballer, you get tarnished with it a little bit, but that's far removed from the person I know.
"It didn't surprise me at all City wanted him. A top, top football team and a top coach. Who am I to argue with that? The reason was because he's a good player.”