Ross Barkley is likely to have been axed by Aston Villa due to his performances in training, according to Kevin Phillips.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Villa striker and ex-Derby and Stoke City coach admitted he was surprised to see the 27-year-old drop to the bench in their last two Premier League games.
After a fine start to life in the Midlands, Barkley has not been the same player since he returned from a hamstring injury in January.
Asked why he thinks Barkley has not been starting games recently, Phillips told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs: “I’m surprised, but we don’t know what goes on on the training ground.
“I’ve been on the training ground and some managers aren’t happy with what they see. His attitude in training, his work rate, might not be the same.
“Dean then probably thinks ‘Just because you’re Ross Barkley, you still need to train hard and have a good attitude.’
“He could be late, nowadays you get punished for that.
“I’m very surprised with how he’s come off the boil after how he first was at Aston Villa, he was on fire and had a great relationship with Grealish.
“Maybe Dean Smith thinks Barkley’s not the same player when Grealish isn’t playing. That could be a reason.
“Dean’s not afraid to drop big players and it’s almost a sign of intent that nobody is guaranteed a place in his side.
“I’d suggest the only person who is, is Grealish because he’s their main man. Apart from that, you have to work to get back into that side.
“I am a bit surprised because Villa aren’t the same without Grealish and you’d like to think Barkley can step up but he’s got to earn a right to play.”