Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has no doubt Jack Grealish is getting better and better as he joked that the playmaker’s “spaceship lands from Pluto every couple of days”.
Grealish shone again on Saturday as Villa beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s, with the skipper’s contribution including providing the cross from which fellow England international Ross Barkley headed in the winner.
It was Grealish’s ninth Premier League assist this term, and he has also scored six league goals in the campaign.
At his press conference ahead of Wednesday’s home clash with West Ham, Smith was asked about Grealish’s form and Sky Sports pundit and former Villa man Paul Merson describing the 25-year-old as being “on a different planet”.
And Smith said: “His spaceship lands from Pluto every couple of days. He’s just a fantastic player, and every game you watch him at the moment he’s playing to a different level, he’s getting better and better.
“I never thought I’d be saying that, such was his standard before.
“He is playing well, he works hard in training, he works hard off the pitch as well. He’s got a real work ethic to get better, and he’s pushing the other players now as well, which is great to see.”
In terms of the opposition on Wednesday, West Ham have an attacking player in their ranks that is very familiar to Smith in Said Benrahma, who he managed at Brentford.
Smith said of the Algerian, signed by the Hammers on a permanent deal last week having previously been on loan from the Bees: “He was certainly one of our best signings at Brentford, for the money we got him for.
“He was excellent last season for them, and he’s gone to West Ham and it’s taken a while to get a consistent run of games, and he seems to be finding himself now.
“He’s a talented boy, that’s for sure. He’s certainly one we have to be wary of.”
Asked if Benrahma was someone he had looked at bringing in, Smith said: “He’s one we looked at, but I see Jack Grealish on the left and there’s not many people who would get ahead of him, if any.”
Smith’s Villa and David Moyes’ West Ham ended the weekend in ninth and fifth respectively.
Under the same managers, the clubs finished 17th and 16th last term, and Smith said: “Time is a rare commodity in this game and we spoke about it last week with Frank (Lampard) losing his job.
“Thankfully we’ve been given time, both myself and David, and we can see where we both are at the moment from being given that time.”
They are among 10 Britons currently managing in the division, and Smith added: “It pleases me. The Premier League is an English league so it’s nice to have British managers in the top English league.
“We have some very good coaches and it’s great that we are challenging ourselves against some of the top coaches from around the world.
“Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Thomas Tuchel now has come as well – these are the brand A coaches in the world and we’re pitting our wits against them every week.”