Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has backed club captain Jack Grealish to earn an England call-up this campaign, insisting he is ‘certain’ that he will soon earn his first cap for his country. 

Grealish has emerged as Villa’s shining light during their challenging Premier League season. They currently sit in 17th, just a point above the relegation zone. 

In any case, having been named skipper exactly a year ago on Sunday, Grealish will lead his side out at Wembley to take on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final. It is Villa’s first major domestic final for a decade. 

While the 24-year-old will be fully focused on Sunday’s match, he will also have the opportunity to ​impress England’s manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the summer’s European Championships, and the friendlies against Italy and Denmark at the end of March. 

Grealish’s manager Smith feels his captain deserves a chance to represent his nation, having watched him mature and blossom into one of the ​Premier League’s best attacking midfielders over the last 12 months. 

As reported by ​FourFourTwo, when asked whether his star-player had changed since assuming captain responsibilities, Smith responded, “As a player yes, as a person, no,” before claiming naming Grealish captain was “one of my easiest decisions.”

“I can only be honest, and from the moment I came in – and you hear the stories about a person, about a player – what I’ve experienced is a player who wants to accept responsibility as a group leader.”

On England, he added: “I am sure he is going to get capped for England this season. His performances are meriting it – and I am not trying to force Gareth Southgate into anything – but the quality is there for all to see, and the maturity from him as well has been excellent.”

Grealish’s impressive performances, and Villa’s relegation fears have fuelled rumours that he could end up leaving his boyhood club in the summer. Ahead of ​Villa’s contest with City on Sunday, Smith was asked if a victory would make it easier to keep him. 

“I don’t know. That’s a question we’ll have to answer in the summer. Obviously, staying in this league is one of the biggest things to help us keep [him]. He wants to play at the highest level and he wants to win trophies.

“Jack’s future, like the rest of the players, is down to what happens over the next three months. What we can do is assess it then.”

​Manchester United have reportedly made the 24-year-old one of their primary summer transfer targets, but Villa will be hoping that, if they manage to stay in the Premier League, Grealish would think twice about leaving. 

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