Remi Garde welcomes Jack Grealish back to first-team training at Aston Villa

first_img Press Association “I am also pleased regarding how Jack trained over the past two weeks with the under-21s. Jack is back. I am happy for that – and for the team.” Grealish had been banished from his club’s first-team training sessions after images of him out in Manchester emerged following Villa’s thrashing at Goodison Park on November 21. Garde called his actions “not of a professional standard” in explaining his punishment and the midfielder subsequently missed the defeat to Watford and the draw with Southampton over the past two weekends as a result. Grealish played all 90 minutes in the under-21s’ 2-1 win over Derby on Monday and is now back training with the first-team squad ahead of the bottom club’s home clash with Garde’s old club Arsenal this weekend. It is not the first time Grealish’s off-field antics have produced unwanted headlines for Villa since he burst onto the scene last season in their run to the FA Cup final. Earlier this year he was reprimanded by his club after an image of him lying on his back in a Tenerife street spread on social media while on another occasion he was also pictured appearing to inhale nitrous oxide, otherwise known as ‘hippy crack’, from a balloon. Garde’s predecessor Tim Sherwood had urged Grealish to “‘knuckle down” when he was at the Villa Park helm, and his form this year has waned as the midlands club have slumped to the division’s basement. The talented 20-year-old had been forced to spend time with the development squad after being pictured in a nightclub following a 4-0 defeat to Everton last month, but Garde has now revealed his punishment over. Speaking to AVTV, the Frenchman said: “Jack is back with the group now. I am pleased to have him back because he’s an important player for the group. center_img Midfielder Jack Grealish is back training with Aston Villa’s first team again, manager Remi Garde has confirmed.last_img read more

Heisler: Kobe Bryant’s 81-point night at the zenith of his zenith

first_imgFittingly, this season dedicated to Kobe Bryant’s farewell — the Lakers having nothing better to do with it — includes the 10-year anniversary of his signature achievement.Bryant was at the mid-point of his career, in the 10th of his 20 seasons, the night in 2006 when he had his 81-point night second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 in NBA history.Ironically, it came as Kobe entered the darkest part of his career, which only he could have gotten himself into and out of.Then he was shunned by peers. Now he’s revered as an icon. Then the Lakers’ down times would last a few seasons before they went back to winning titles.The 2005-06 season was their second after trading Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant had been shocked to find himself blamed for running the beloved Shaq out of town (and, in fact, wasn’t guilty, having thought he would be the one leaving in 2004, intending to sign with the Clippers.)In the first exhibition in the fall of 2004, a crazed Bryant had hopped all over Seattle’s Ray Allen as if it was Game 7 of the Finals.Allen, who might have been speaking for the rest of the league, responded with a rip for the ages.“He feels like he needs to show the league … that he is better without Shaq, that he can win without Shaq,” said Allen. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img “… In about a year or two he will be calling out to Jerry Buss that we need some help in here, or trade me.“We’ll all be saying we told you so when he says that.”Allen was only off by a year. After their third post-Shaq, Bryant would torch everyone in the organization from Buss down for not trying to win, trying to force a trade.• STAY CONNECTED: Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get more newsThat was still in their future. This was the 2005-06 season with Phil Jackson returned to pick up the pieces, turning the Lakers back into a playoff team, if hardly an imposing one.Starting with Bryant and Lamar Odom Jan. 22, 2006 were Kwame Brown, Smush Parker and Chris Mihm.Jackson was now desperate enough to let Bryant try to carry the team single-handed, which Kobe, at 28, was capable of doing.In December, Bryant had scored 62 points in a win over Dallas, sitting out the fourth quarter.That January, he was in the process of averaging 43 with 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists, shooting 47 percent, the best month of his career, or, perhaps, anyone’s career.Michael Jordan, who was more grounded, fundamental and consistent than Bryant, is the consensus best NBA player but Mike might not have been able to reach the heights Kobe did that month.Bryant’s 81-point game, then, was the zenith of his zenith.The Lakers trailed the Toronto Raptors by 14 at halftime, in which Kobe scored 22, and by 18 early in the third quarter.Kobe then scored 52 in the second half with Toronto Coach Sam Mitchell refusing to double-team.• See box score from Jan. 22, 2006If his peers had been skeptical of him personally, they were now slack-jawed in wonder at his talent.“I had my popcorn just like probably everybody else,” said Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson. “I was watching, and I was actually calling people up on the phone to make sure they were watching it.”“Everybody was calling,” said Miami’s Dwyane Wade. “Everybody called every player in the league.”(Shaq wouldn’t comment but, according to Miami teammate Antoine Walker, said he wanted 50 shots.)• PHOTOS: See gallery from Jan. 22, 2006No, the Lakers didn’t live happily ever after.After first-round exits that spring and the next, Bryant staged his summer-long tantrum, excoriating Jerry Buss (“liar”), GM Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the organization.Given permission to put together his own trade to Chicago, he would have become a Bull in a three-way trade with Sacramento if the Kings would have sent Ron Artest to the Lakers.The Kings wanted to give it one more try with Artest. At mid-season, they gave up and dumped him on Houston.With Bryant forced to stay, the Lakers got off to a surprising start in the 2007-08 season with the emergence of young Andrew Bynum — whom Kobe had announced they should have traded for Jason Kidd.At mid-season Buss and Kupchak acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis, making the Lakers an elite team once more.Bryant won his lone MVP that season, in one of the most amazing turnarounds the NBA had ever seen. The Lakers played in the next three Finals, winning titles in 2009 and 2010.After that, Kobe chilled even as the Lakers’ fortunes started to spiral downward.With their rebuilding project barely started, the Lakers have been lower longer than at any point in their history here or in Minneapolis.Kobe is a walking memory but, finally a happy one with one peer after another like Wade and Paul George saying he was their favorite player and fans making him the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game.For the generation that came after Jordan, Kobe was their Michael.That January night and Bryant’s career are reminders that it’s never over ‘til it’s over.For the Lakers whom Kobe leaves behind, it’s a lesson and a memory to cherish.last_img read more