Jack Grealish heartache: 'Death of baby brother can inspire Villa man to FA Cup glory'
As Jack Grealish steps out at Wembley this weekend, his father said the young player will be inspired by the memory of his baby brother who died 15 years ago.
Kevin Grealish, father of the former Irish U21 international, said grief weighed heavily on the family ahead of the young player’s FA Cup final with Aston Villa.
Last month, the 19-year-old star tweeted “15 years ago today, love you bro” on the anniversary of his brother Keelan’s death.
“It’s been a special time for the family lately with the way Jack has developed at Villa and we know he will be determined to make Keelan and the rest of us proud by winning the FA Cup,” said Mr Grealish (Senior).
“Jack was only a kid himself back then, but he still remembers Keelan and he still thinks about him with everything he achieves.”
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail newspaper, Mr Grealish said his son’s starring role in the FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool last month was particularly poignant given how he learned of his toddler's death in 2000.
He had been in London ahead of Villa’s semi final tie against Bolton at Wembley when he received the news his son had died.
“He was only nine months old, he was a little angel and I was devastated. We all were,” he said.
“When I remember the last FA Cup semi final against Bolton and the news we got that day, and then I think about what [Jack] achieved and the way he played against Liverpool, he made us so proud and brought us so much happiness.
“We still miss Keelan and still think about him - you never ever get over losing a child - but we are so grateful and lucky that we are blessed with Jack, his brother Kevan and his little sisters Holly and Kiera.”
Jack Grealish, who signed a new four year contract last September with Villa, recently turned down a call-up to the Irish squad for their upcoming Euro 2016 clash with Scotland next month.
Born in England Mr Grealish (Junior) qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents, and, until recently, represented Ireland at the Under-21 level.
Last week, English manager Roy Hodgson said he had resisted the temptation to call up him to the England squad because he did not want the Aston Villa midfielder to receive a hostile reception if he made his debut in Dublin ahead of the Ireland versus England friendly in June.