By Dominic Toner
Roberto Di Matteo has revealed he has no plans to axe Jack Grealish despite his troubles over the last 12 months.
The 20-year-old Aston Villa midfielder only made nine appearances for the Midlands club last season due to injuries, poor form and a series of off-field controversies.
New Villa manager Di Matteo claims he has been fully briefed about Grealish’s past but the slate is clean and he regards him as an integral part of his plans.
Di Matteo told the Birmingham Mail: “I know all about him (Grealish). I’ve done all my research on him.
“I’m not going to go into details about where I see him playing right now- that would be wrong. I think you need to give it a bit of time and you will all see. What I will say is that I think he is a talented boy and I think he has a future here.”
The midfielder can be used as a winger or an attacking midfielder and it seems Di Matteo is yet to work out his best position.
The youngster has endured a turbulent time during his Villa career so far, being left out of the squad a couple of times as a punishment for going out drinking.
He also has struggled with injuries and consistency throughout his career, but has shown in glimpses in the Premier League and for England’s Under-21 that he does have ability.
Grealish played for Republic of Ireland as a youngster before deciding to pledge his international duty to England and has rewarded his nation already as he picked up the 2016 Toulon Tournament with the Under-21 team.
The last time Di Matteo managed in the Championship was in the 2009-10 season, when he guided West Brom to an instant return to the top flight.
He will be hoping he can repeat the feat with his new side and has already begun reshaping his new squad with the additions of Bournemouth’s Tommy Elphick, goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and Aaron Tshibola of Reading.
In other Aston Villa news, nine senior players are to be axed this summer by Di Matteo.