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Dean Smith calls for refs to protect Aston Villa captain Grealish

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'If they do their job, then I'm okay with Jack getting a couple of whacks': Dean Smith calls for greater protection for Aston Villa captain Grealish but admits 'exceptional' star will be targetedAston Villa boss Dean Smith feels Jack Grealish is coming in for rough treatment Smith has called on referees to do more to protect his team's star manGrealish has been fouled 53 times this season, more than any other player Smith accepts that Grealish's abilities mean he will always be targeted 

Dean Smith claims Jack Grealish is being unfairly targeted by Premier League defenders and called for referees to give his star man more protection.

Grealish will again be a marked man when Aston Villa visit Chelsea on Wednesday - he has been fouled 53 times this season, more than any other Premier League player, after also clocking up a Championship-high 161 as Villa were promoted last season.

Asked whether he would like referees to be more severe on the players asked to shackle Grealish, Villa boss Smith said: 'I certainly would. There was a bit of a tag team on him (at Old Trafford). When somebody gets targeted then they certainly need a lot more protection.

Dean Smith has called for more protection for his star man Jack Grealish at Aston Villa

Grealish came in for rough treatment at Old Trafford as Aston Villa drew with Man United

'It seems to be that they want to foul him around the halfway line before he gets any further. We certainly got four or five of them at Old Trafford in the first half an hour.

'The officials are there to protect the safety of the players. If they're doing their job okay, then I'm okay with Jack getting a couple of whacks.

'I expected him to be the most fouled. He protects the ball so well, his balance is exceptional, he is a great ball carrier, and he does give defenders problems.' 

 Grealish has been fouled 53 times this season, more than any other Premier League player

'Certainly, once they've had a caution - which I feel a lot more players should have done - then he gives them a big problem the next time he is running at them.' 

Chris Kavanagh, who has handed out 167 yellow and four red cards in 50 Premier League matches, takes charge at Stamford Bridge.

While Smith wants officials to keep a close eye on the treatment of Grealish, he says there is no chance the 24-year-old will be affected by it.

Last season, Grealish was attacked on the pitch by a Birmingham fan, before going on to score the only goal in the derby at St Andrew's in March.

Smith added: 'He was attacked by a Blues fan and that didn't seem to bother him. He gets whacked all the time but just gets on with it. He sees it as a prize that opponents want to kick him.'

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