Jack Grealish was ready for Aston Villa captaincy, says manager Dean Smith

Image: Aston Villa boss Dean Smith and captain Jack Grealish celebrate winning the play-off final at Wembley

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has praised the influence of captain Jack Grealish in leading the club to promotion back to the Premier League.

Grealish wore the armband at Wembley Stadium on Monday as the Villans ended their three-year hiatus from the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Derby County.

The midfielder was appointed Villa captain in March of this year, which coincided with their 10-game Championship winning streak in which he scored four goals and made two assists.

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Highlights from Villa's 2-1 win over Derby in the Championship play-off final

But Smith says the decision to make the 23-year-old his captain was not a difficult one.

"It probably wasn't that big within the dressing room," Smith explained. "I think some of the players would have expected it, but I think the perception from outside makes it a lot grander than it probably was.

"I just felt Jack was ready. He's a responsible lad and a Villa fan at heart. He's taken on that responsibility admirably and I think he's becoming a better player for it."

Prince William celebrates Aston Villa win 1:26
Prince William was alongside Villa legend John Carew to see the club he supports promoted

Grealish is just one of a host of Villa players attracting interest from other Premier League sides, but the club is now in a stable financial position with the riches of top-flight football to follow.

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This is a drastic transformation from last summer's play-off final defeat and ensuing financial difficulties and Smith is proud to be able to pay back the owners with promotion.

He said: "I felt for everybody who was involved last year against Fulham and then the financial worries that they had. There might not have been a football club here.

"Thankfully we've got two owners who didn't really have an outside interest in Aston Villa who came and rescued the football club. I take a great sense of pride in rewarding them with the day we had yesterday."

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