Thursday 14 December 2017

Stan Collymore writes open letter warning Aston Villa's Jack Grealish against party lifestyle and hangers-on

Stan Collymore (left) knows all about the dangers facing Jack Grealish (right) as young footballe rin Birmingham
Stan Collymore (left) knows all about the dangers facing Jack Grealish (right) as young footballe rin Birmingham

Sean Gibson

Former Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore has taken to social media to post an open letter to the club's young midfielder Jack Grealish, warning him of the dangers of a wild lifestyle.

21-year-old Grealish, who joined the club aged just six, first broke into the side two seasons ago and featured prominently in his side's run to the 2015 FA Cup final - yet he is much better known for the front-page headlines he generates with his off-field behaviour.

Collymore's intervention has been prompted by another episode of partying splashed across the tabloid media, and warned Grealish: "Anyone who says 'You're only young once, f*** them it's only fun', they are the ones, whoever they are[,] who need to go in the bin."

Collymore, now 45, retired from professional football at just 30 years of age and endured similarly negative press coverage of a hedonistic life in Birmingham.

The erstwhile Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Southend forward told Grealish of his own troubles, "trying to keep focused as a footballer, while letting poor choices drag me down and eventually consume me leading to severe mental health issues".

The letter, to which Grealish has not yet made any public response, was largely well-received by Twitter users, though some questioned whether there was any hope of the Aston Villa star learning anything from Collymore's example, or if Stan himself would have heeded his own advice 20 years ago.

Grealish is most famous for being pictured, drunk, lying in the middle of a road in Tenerife in the summer of 2015 - the fallout from which the player later described as "a painful lesson" - having previously been shamed for photos of him inhaling laughing gas on a night out.

Grealish stirred further adverse publicity in November last year when he was photographed in a nightclub in Manchester, just hours after Villa had lost 4-0 to Everton - an act for which he was banished to the Villa under-21 side.

 In an interview with the Telegraph's John Percy last month, ahead of Aston Villa's first match following relegation to the Championship last season, Grealish said: "You can see why the fans got frustrated and I’ve got a little bit to make up with them

"It’s all about learning and I’m still only 20. We all make mistakes when we’re young but you won’t be seeing me do any of that again."

Grealish's career has faltered since his first-team breakthrough, and the form that prompted talk of his joining the senior England squad just over a year ago seems like a distant memory.

In his letter to Grealish, Collymore cited the contrasting careers of former Aston Villa youth stars Gareth Barry and Lee Hendrie - the former having recently completed his 600th Premier League appearance; the latter last seen at Basford in the Northern Premier League Division One having been declared bankrupt in 2012.

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