When you’re captaining Aston Villa in a game being played at St Andrew’s, there’s a strong chance you’re going to find yourself in the headlines for one reason or another.
Sadly for Jack Grealish, that headline was written for him after just ten minutes of Sunday’s second city derby.
While the incident that occurred, and several others like it in recent weeks, now have to form part of a much wider reaching debate as to how fans are policed and players are kept safe on the field of play, the immediate response of Grealish and his teammates could be something much more positive for Villa.
With the exception of those of a Birmingham persuasion, few could have begrudged Grealish his jubilant dive into the Villa fans in the away end of St Andrew’s after scoring the only goal of the game midway through the second half.
Having already won the respect of many with his calm and composed response in the immediate aftermath of the attack on him, the 23-year-old produced an equally admirable assessment of the game in his post match interview, choosing focus on captaining his boyhood club and scoring the winner on the ground of their local rivals, calling it the “best day of his life”.
Even before the events of Sunday, Grealish’s importance to Villa’s campaign was obvious.
In the thirteen league games Grealish missed through injury, Dean Smith’s side won just twice.
The two games Villa have played with Grealish back in the starting lineup, they’ve won both: thrashing Derby with Grealish smashing in that stunning volley before the dramatic trip to Birmingham on Sunday.
Just as telling about the incident was the reaction of Grealish’s teammates, a number both to confront his attacker, and to follow their into the away end in celebration following his opener.
It is moments like those that can so often bring a team together, and with those two Grealish inspired wins taking Villa to within four points of the play-offs with ten games remaining and at least one spot seemingly up for grabs, that team spirit could be vital in a late charge into the top six and with it a second shot at Wembley in as many seasons.