Gareth Southgate believes Jack Grealish can thrive under the pressure of being England’s man of the moment.
An autumn that started with questions about why the Aston Villa skipper was left out of the squad has ended with talk about a starring role at next summer’s rearranged European Championship.
Grealish would make his England debut off the bench against Denmark in September having eventually been brought into the squad as an injury replacement and was named man of the match against Wales in October.
The 25-year-old again shone in last week’s 3-0 friendly win against the Republic of Ireland – a country he turned down the chance to represent at senior level – and Sunday’s 2-0 Nations League loss to Belgium.
Asked if he has to manage growing expectations around Grealish, Southgate said ahead of Wednesday’s dead rubber against Iceland: “Well, I think that’s always important with any player. We’re going to succeed or fail as a team and it’s for everybody to contribute.
“One of the things we tried to ensure right through the last four years is that it’s collective expectation.
“We couldn’t put all the pressure on Harry Kane, we couldn’t pull all the pressure on Raheem (Sterling), other players, and we’ve got to make sure that it’s the same with Jack.
“He’s had a super start to his international career. I think he will be able to handle the attention because he’s a player that thrives under that pressure.
“He’s got great courage with the ball, so I don’t think that will faze him.
“But, equally, it’s going to be this squad, and the team that bring us success as a collective.”
Grealish is one of only three players to have started both of this month’s matches and it would not be a surprise to see him feature again on Wednesday.
Kieran Trippier has been impressed by the 25-year-old’s impact and backed the Aston Villa captain to keep on improving.
“Jack’s been fantastic, especially training with him for England,” the Atletico Madrid right-back said.
“The past few games that he’s played, he’s playing with real confidence, he’s showing his ability and as a character he is a really good lad, on and off the pitch.
“Jack’s got everything to be a top player and if he keeps playing like he is with the freedom and enjoying himself, which is the most important thing, he can go all the way to the top.”