Birmingham forward Troy Deeney has admitted that Jack Grealish has helped Aston Villa become the go-to club for younger football fans in the city.
Deeney’s signing for Birmingham was compared to Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United. The magnitude of the signing was huge for the club, with shirt sales apparently rising by 120 percent, per the Athletic.
Clearly loved by fans at St Andrew’s, Deeney returned ‘home’ this summer. However, he has admitted that Villa hold all the chips in the rivalry, given they are now back in the Premier League.
“What’s happened recently – and Blues fans won’t like this – but because of the success of Villa and obviously Grealish, people have grown up with him, I think the town is starting to get more and more Villa fans from a younger perspective,” he said via TalkSport.
“Because of the success of Villa being in the Prem, young kids don’t want to watch Crewe away do they? They want to watch Man United.”
Grealish’s meteoric rise before his £100million move to Manchester City put Villa back on the map after some tough years. A boyhood Villa fan leading his team back to the Premier League bred much support.
Deeney feels, while it might be painful for Blues fans to see, it is a positive for football in the country’s second city.
“It’s good, the town needs it, I think the town needs more rivalries and we are enjoying it. Those guys across the road are having a good time at the moment but we are coming back,” he said.
“What the challenge for us is now is to make Birmingham more successful and to get it back to where it used to be, because it used to be a Birmingham town for the last 20 or 30 years.”
Deeney admits pressure at Birmingham
The rivalry between Birmingham and Villa is one of the most fierce in the country. Furthermore, Birmingham fans demand a lot from their players, something Deeney knows all too well.
“The one thing you can’t explain is how the pressure intensifies, playing for a big club in a big city, it’s everywhere. I take the kids to school ‘Oh what happened yesterday? Yeah, we were rubbish mate, sorry mate’,” he said.
“No matter what, it just keeps going and keeps going. But when it’s good, it is brilliant.”
Deeney is yet to make a huge impact for Birmingham, scoring once in five games so far this season. However, he is relishing the opportunity to play in front of the St Andrew’s crowd.
“I am really enjoying it, at this moment in my career to have a new challenge, really getting my teeth into something new – and a new obstacle because I have been spoilt at Watford,” he said.
The striker spent over 10 years at Watford, bagging 140 goals for the club, and achieving legendary status. Indeed, he will hope he can have even half that effect during his time at Birmingham.