Jack Grealish has set his sights on emulating the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney after shining on his full tournament debut for England in Tuesday’s Euro 2020 win over the Czech Republic.
There had been a clamour for the 25-year-old to feature more prominently in Gareth Southgate’s side and he provided the assist as Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game to send England through as winners of Group D.
Grealish had starred in England’s two warm-up wins but had to wait for his chance and now the Aston Villa captain is aiming to make a name for himself during the remainder of the competition.
“Yes, definitely,” he replied when asked if Euro 2020 could be the making of him.
“I’ve spoken about how big these tournaments are in people’s careers. You think back and look at Gazza at Italia ’90, where he was well known before but everyone remembers that tournament.
“You look at Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004 when he set his marker to be one of the best in the world.
“I’ve got a bit to follow in their footsteps but hopefully I can do that if I get more chances in the tournament.”
Grealish has never tasted European football but believes he can still deliver on the big occasions for the Three Lions.
“There is nothing to say I can’t perform at this level,” he said.
“You all know how much confidence I have in myself to be able to perform and I felt I did that with my assist.
“I felt I could have still created a few more chances but we got the win and that was the main thing.
“I think it’s obviously different to what I’ve been used to. I’ve never played in Europe before, I’ve never played in the Europa League or Champions League so it’s obviously different to what I’m used to.
“But it’s a new challenge, it’s something that I’m really enjoying, I love it. It is a matter of showcasing my talent to the world and it is what I want.”
Asked about the added pressure of playing in big games, Grealish added: “I don’t think it’s pressure at all, I love playing football and that is what I am paid and what I was born to do.
“I just love playing football every day of my life and when I go out there, there is no pressure on me whatsoever. I just enjoy myself like I always do.”
Grealish was one of three changes for the 1-0 win over the Czechs, with Harry Maguire and Bukayo Saka also included.
It was Saka who caught the eye, being named star of the match by UEFA as he made his first appearance of the finals.
“It is no surprise to us,” Grealish said of the 19-year-old Arsenal forward’s display.
“He has been training brilliantly, he was brilliant in training (on Monday) so it was no surprise that he ended up starting the game.
“He is fearless, he is still young. He is obviously a great, great talent, a great player and also he is actually a lovely, lovely kid as well.
“He is such a nice, down-to-earth kid. He is so liked in the changing room by everyone, by the coaching staff.
“He is just one of those kids you can tell has come from a lovely background. He is a lovely lad and he has got the world at his feet.”