Jack Grealish says he is good-hearted person who does “stupid stuff”, which explains why the forward goes from talking about making a boy feel like a king with his celebration to expressing remorse about his dig at Miguel Almiron.
Last year the home-grown Aston Villa star became the most expensive English player in history, continuing the fascinating career path of a 27-year-old whose life has played out in the public eye.
Grealish does not shy away from his mistakes and embraces the pressure that comes with playing for reigning Premier League champions Manchester City and attempting to help England to World Cup glory.
Brought on by Gareth Southgate in every game in Qatar so far, the skilful forward scored a tap-in against Iran which allowed him to fulfil a promise to Finlay Fisher, a City-supporting schoolboy with cerebral palsy.
“That’s natural – I don’t do that for any clout or whatever,” Grealish said of the ‘wave arms’ celebration he said he would do for the 11-year-old.
“I do that because that’s what I feel like I’m good at sometimes. Because I can relate to it with my little sister (Hollie, who also has cerebral palsy), it was a nice thing for him as well.
“Because it was so popular, it’s nice for him because he’ll go back to school and he’ll probably be like quite popular. That was just something that came naturally.
“I think it ended up being so nice and quite emotional actually. That’s just the way I’ve been brought up. I know I’ve been brought up well.
“I’ve got a good heart, I think I have. Obviously I’ve done stupid stuff in my life but I think everything that I do good is from my heart.”
Grealish’s family have been in Qatar, with dad Kevin donning a Union Jack waistcoat and bow tie that “looks like something from the market” at games that visually-impaired sister Hollie supports him at, according to the City player.
“She gets it but she obviously can’t watch the game and stuff, so she just sits there on her iPad,” he said.
“She’s addicted to Coronation Street, so she watches Coronation Street from 1998. Kirk on there is about 10 years old. He’s about 40 now, isn’t he?”
Grealish laughs as he speaks warmly about family and living his dream to the fullest, meaning he is often the last person to leave training – and sometimes the bar.
The 27-year-old’s antics as City celebrated May’s Premier League title win only highlighted that as the sozzled star went from amusing fans to poking fun at Newcastle’s Almiron.
Grealish likened Riyad Mahrez’s ineffective performance on the final day to the Paraguayan in a video he did not realise was public and quickly went viral.
“When I said earlier that sometimes I do stupid stuff, that was one,” Grealish said. “I regret that.
“I swear, I’m actually buzzing the way he’s reacted. He said something about me in the interview the other day, he wished me the best.
“I thought ‘what a guy, man’ because if that was me and somebody had said that about me, I’d have probably been the other way and been like ‘f*** it’.”
Grealish contacted former Villa team-mate Matt Targett to apologise to Almiron, who is in impressive form.
“I thought it was just private but even in private I shouldn’t have said it because he’s a fellow professional,” he said. “I’m actually buzzing for him. I’ve had a lot of stick off the Newcastle fans and rightly so.”
Grealish does not appear to let such mistakes get him down too much, nor is he inhibited by the pressure of playing at his first World Cup or being a £100million player.
The 27-year-old laughed off premature talk about the party that could follow lifting the trophy – “it would be one hell of a week or two,” he said with a smile – and instead expressed frustration at some criticism of England.
Senegal await in the last 16 on Sunday after topping Group B, with a 6-2 win against Iran and 3-0 defeat of Wales bookending the 0-0 statement with the United States that led to boos and criticism.
“I remember reading some stuff and thinking ‘f****** hell, give us a break’. Do you know what I mean?” he said.
“After one game I was reading stuff about how we were dismal. That can happen to anyone. I think we do deserve some credit as a team.
“We’ve got seven points, two clean sheets now, conceded only twice in three games and obviously scored nine goals.
“We’ve just got to take it game by game but it’s a nice image to think about winning but we’ve got to take it game by game as we’ve got a strong opponent coming up on Sunday.”
Grealish looks unlikely to start against Senegal, but it would be a surprise if Southgate does not call on the gifted forward from the bench.
“When I come on here all the lads says to me if we’re drawing at half-time, ‘make sure you’re ready’ and it makes you feel like that they want you, it makes me feel good,” he added.
“Whenever I’m called upon by the manager, whether that be starting or on the bench, I’m ready to come on and try and change a game.”