Paul Lambert has compared Aston Villa superstar Jack Grealish to the “kid” he first gave a chance to while managing the club back in 2012.
The former Dortmund player was speaking ahead of his former team’s Bundesliga clash with Cologne live on BT Sport this Saturday.
He believes Grealish, along with the German side’s English youngsters Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham, should not carry the weight of the nation’s expectations on their shoulders going into a huge 2021 for the Three Lions.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Lambert said: “I had Jack when he was really young, we gave him his debut all those years ago.
“He was only a young kid and we tried to protect him the best we could at that time.
“There was a lot of hype on him at that time but the way he’s developed now, he’s tenfold. He’s way, way better than when I had him as he was only a kid.
“Did I see ability? Yeah. Did I see the pitfalls coming? Yeah, I did, because of the way it was going.
“You’d have to keep an eye on him just to make sure he’s ok, he’s come through that period. I know he’s had his little misgivings but he was only a kid, kids make mistakes. It’s not until they become older they start to realise with them. But [he has] huge talent, don’t take anything away from that.
Grealish has been terrific for several seasons as a maverick midfielder in the Villa first team after joining his boyhood club at the age of six.
The 25-year-old appears to have raised his game in 2020 under lockdown circumstances and has burst into the England set-up to rave reviews from fans, pundits and boss Gareth Southgate alike.
Lambert – now Ipswich Town manager – hopes the senior players in the England setup can help shield him from the inevitable pressure that will come his way from now on.
He said: “Hopefully everybody gives him time. Don’t rest everything on on Sancho or Grealish, they need time.
“That’s why people like Harry Kane, guys like that, maybe Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson can put their arm around him and protect him from that side.
“If you’re talking talent-wise, he’s a huge talent.”
BT Sport is the exclusive home of the Bundesliga. Watch Borussia Dortmund v Cologne on BT Sport ESPN from 2:30pm on Saturday 28th November.
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