Anyone trying to type the name Jack Grealish into their mobile phones after being told that he is a player to watch for the future may have had issues with spellcheck inserting the word ‘Freakish’ in instead.
Yet this is an apt word to describe the 18-year-old Aston Villa academy graduate’s rise in the past 12 months, from player of the month nominations during a loan spell in the second half of last season at League One Notts County to a sparkling pre-season ahead of the current campaign.
Freakish especially symbolises two of Grealish’s goals as he top scored on the way to helping Villa win the Hong Kong International Sevens tournament.
The first was reminiscent of Tony Yeboah’s famous Monday Night Football Premier League goal for Leeds against Liverpool. A shot from 25 yards that crossed the line via a big deflection off the underside of the crossbar.
He followed it with something completely different. Alone against three defenders and a goalkeeper on the edge of the box, he twisted, turned, used his body intelligently and showed sublime footwork to beat them all before tapping into an empty net.
Grealish was given a handful of Premier League minutes at the end of last season, but has stepped up already in this. He was the clear bright spark in the Capital One Cup exit against Leyton Orient and was kicked from pillar to post by Hull in a late cameo.
He was only on the pitch 15 minutes, touched the ball seven times, but was acrimoniously dumped to the ground on four occasions. Steve Bruce was clearly aware of his potential.
So too is Jose Mourinho if the latest speculation is to be believed, with Chelsea hoping that the offer of a substantial pay rise will lure the youngster from his boyhood club.
Money talks in football these days, but the big question for Grealish is whether he wants first-team games or to be eighth choice, battling for an attacking midfield position at Stamford Bridge.
Victor Moses, Lucas Piazon and Marko Marin have already left on loan in search of games, Josh McEachran was tipped for great things a few years ago but hasn’t got close to the first team, while Lewis Baker is a similar prospect already at Chelsea and plays in a similar position.
Much could hinge on how much Villa trust the Republic of Ireland youth international and whether he can win starts ahead of Charles N’Zogbia and Joe Cole, with a position on the left of a front three seemingly his current starting spot.
Paul Lambert has challenged Grealish to give him a selection headache and bwin are offering 17/20 on the teenager making a minimum of nine Premier League starts this season.
If Lambert has any aspiration of keeping the starlet then he must give him minutes and should Villa be lingering around mid-table with little to play for from February onwards, there will certainly be no excuse not to field him from the off.
Backing over 8.5 starts this season certainly looks a wiser bet than going below this line.