Jack Grealish ‘jumps pecking order’ with Gareth Southgate won over by talent

Gareth Southgate watched England's bubble burst – and then tipped Jack Grealish to become a major star.

Goals from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens for Belgium meant the Three Lions crashed out of the Nations League.

But Southgate heaped praise on Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, who sparkled on his first competitive start for his country.

The England boss said: “I thought he was outstanding and should be delighted with how he played.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of his performance. Has he jumped the pecking order? One hundred per cent.

“Since he’s come into the camp he’s impressed us. He’s been curious to find out what we’re looking for from him, and taken that on board.

“He should be really proud. He really stood up. I saw somebody with the bravery to play. He took the ball in tight areas. Took players out of the game.”

England added Jordan Henderson and Ben Chilwell to a growing injury list ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Iceland.

But while Southgate became the first manager to lose 10 matches with the Three Lions since Sven-Goran Eriksson, he was pleased with his team’s performance.

Southgate said: “I’ve learned a lot about the players. I don’t think we’ve got what we deserved from the last two matches in this competition.

“It does feel harsh. We caused problems. Defended resiliently. I thought we were excellent. If you play at the level we did tonight, we will win more games than we lose."

Southgate also admitted he had secretly battled Covid last month, saying: “I did have the virus.

“I was fortunate. Not as serious as so many people in our country. Not pleasant. Not something you’d choose to have, but everything is fine now.”

Skipper Harry Kane also hailed Grealish, saying: “Fantastic player. I am sure he will get plenty of opportunities in an England shirt.

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"Once he gets on the ball he’s not afraid one v one. always looking for that pass forward. Really positive signs.”

Grealish, who watched clips of Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho before the game, said: "I absolutely loved it. But I am devastated we didn't get the win."

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