Jack Grealish spoke in glowing terms about Stan Petrov to the official website. His admiration was unbridled for the man and his battle with leukaemia, not just to return to good health but to play professional football once more.
Grealish called him “an inspiration to everyone” and I hope he takes his own words to heart. Petrov had it all and nature’s cruelty snatched it from his grasp.
He didn’t give up without a fight and for the moment, has won his battle. There’s still a way to go and God willing, he’ll make it. Football’s romanticism is slowly being crushed by money and this is one battle where the good guy can genuinely win.
There’s no way I would compare Grealish’s tribulations –self-inflicted as they are – to Petrov’s but the Bulgarian has the strength of character that Jack needs to show.
I can’t condemn the actions of an 18 year-old lad on holiday for the first time. We want our footballers to be monks and they aren’t; they’re young lads with pockets full of cash and easily led astray. Yes, he needed to show more common sense but he was a teenager and let’s be honest, we were all drongos once.
And if you weren’t, (a) boy, were you dull, and, (b) you were no friend of mine, that’s for sure.
But he’s moved on and – eventually – got his head down to some hard work. The media treated him the same way they do Jack Wilshere. He needs to look at that and learn the lessons. I think he’s got it.
He’s certainly got the right words to make us think he has: “I want to be a driving force for the team this season. I want to be one of the lads that the others look up to and get inspiration from.”
Words are fine things but empty without the actions to substantiate them.
We all want Jack to succeed. He’s one of us, from the terraces to the turf. They are the players, the ones who feel the pain but not in the superficial way of a signing that loves the club they play for and will hold a special place for us in their hearts, but in the gut-wrenching pain and ecstatic joy of the stands.
And with that comes a burden: the weight of expectation. Standards are more exacting, the bar is that much higher. It’s not all bad: we’re more forgiving of transgressions, more patient. But even that has limits.
This is it for Jack. A new manager with no reason to be sentimental. A club that needs a kick up the backside has a player who needed one. Injury didn’t help and perhaps the club could have done more but like the Premier League, that’s in the past.
We’ve got to look to the future now and if Grealish is fit, raring to go and ready to deliver the potential he undoubtedly has, we have some reasons to feel positive about the future.