Dean Smith admits he went against Villa’s medical staff to give Jack Grealish an extra five minutes against Everton while revealing how the captain will be on the bench once again on Sunday.
Captain Grealish returned after a 12-game absence to play the final 20 minutes at Villa Park in the drab draw against Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues.
Smith, though, was instructed by Villa’s doctor to give Grealish a maximum of 15 minutes knowing he’s still not 100 per cent after his 89-day layoff with his shin injury.
“I’ll sit down with him tomorrow and see how he feels,” Smith said of Grealish’s first game back. “He certainly brought a spark onto the pitch straight away. Jacob Ramsey did the same, they both brought a little bit of quality and energy into the game for us because it wasn’t quite happening in the final third.
“I think (Grealish) had one mesmerising run where he had five or six Everton players chasing him and you thought it might be one of them days where he comes on scoring the winner.
“It’s really good to have him back. It’s small steps at the moment but it’s great to have him back out there.
“We’ve got three games now in the next 10 days and we’re hopeful Jack will play a part in all three of them games. Whether it’s Tottenham or Chelsea, we’re hoping to get 90 minutes out of him.
“He’ll be as fit as can be. He’s a naturally fit player anyway. He’s continued to work on his CV (cardiovascular) with a little bit more off feet and, in training, you don’t see a lack of fitness in him, that’s for sure.”
On the mysterious nature of Grealish’s shin issue, Smith was asked about it perhaps stemming from the amount of Premier League games played within a short space of time back in January and early February.
Smith added: “I’m not sure. It’s just a real strange injury that occurred. We had the Covid outbreak and then we had to play a number of games in a short amount of time.
“I may only be speculating that that’s the reason why he got a loading injury but he’s come back now and he looks fresh. We need to go softly, softly with him. He just loves playing football. I promised the medical staff 15 minutes but I managed to squeeze him on for an extra five today.”
Elsewhere, the boss was asked about Matty Cash after the right-back hobbled off on the stroke of half-time.
Smith said: “With Cash, I’m not sure if it’s a re-occurrence of the hamstring (picked up vs Brighton) but he certainly felt his hamstring and, if it is, that’s him out for the last three games.
“Somebody’s just spoken to him and he didn’t feel bad at all so we’ll see with him.”