Manchester City forward Jack Grealish has taken aim at TV pundits who criticise him for keeping hold of the ball for long periods of time in matches.
“Oh don’t,” Grealish sighed when asked about the pundits. “The way some of the TV pundits talk I can’t actually catch my breath sometimes.
“It’s as if they never played bad themselves. Graeme [Souness] was an unbelievable player but he used to say I held on to the ball too long.
“I was like: ‘Mate, I play for Aston Villa.’ A lot of the time we didn’t have the ball so when we did the manager told me to keep it.
“It’s the same here. Everyone sees Pep [Guardiola] as a tiki-taka manager but before the Bayern game away in the Champions League he said: ‘You know what having b**** is? It’s about being the one to keep the ball, to calm the game down.
“So you do that and you get criticised. It’s tricky.
“When I was at Villa nobody had paid any money for me so it didn’t matter if I played bad. Also, 90 per cent of the games were not live on TV so people wouldn’t notice anyway.
“It is different now but I will be honest here – if I have played well I go back home and watch everything and listen to the commentary and what they say afterwards. If I play s***, I will not listen to a word they say.”
Grealish also admitted he found it difficult at first to adapt to playing for City and Guardiola.
“I was a bit in awe of being here, a bit shy,” Grealish confessed about his first season. “Not, like, in my personality but on the pitch.
“People would shout: ‘Jack, pass’ and I would be: ‘F hell it’s (Kevin) De Bruyne, I had better pass it to him.’
“You know what I mean? He had been my idol.”
“Yeah, it was difficult to change [to Guardiola’s style],” he continued. “Now I see these guys as my friends and I am like: ‘Give me the ball.’ I demand it.
“I would still like to score more. My assists – not trying to big myself up – are now at 11 and I don’t take any set-pieces. But it’s not just [about] numbers, is it?”