VIDEO: Bailey proves he can be the Greal deal at Villa Park
With an hour on the clock in Aston Villa against Everton, the Premier League tie needed a spark — enter Leon Bailey.
The 24-year-old introduced himself to the home crowd in spectacular fashion by setting up the first goal before scoring himself in a 3-0 blitz of the Toffees.
It was only a 21-minute cameo by the £25million signing but his home debut was enough to show the Villa Park crowd there is plenty of life after Jack Grealish as he picked up the man-of-the-match award.
We turn the spotlight on Bailey as he looks to fill the void left by the £100m Citizens star.
Short but sweet
Bailey's arrival to Villa from Bayer Leverkusen softened the blow of talisman and captain Grealish leaving for Manchester City — but fans have had to be patient to get a glimpse of their new man.
Three substitute appearances against Watford, Chelsea and Everton have seen the speedster manage just 85 minutes of action so far.
After claiming an assist in the defeat against the Hornets and impressing in another loss at Stamford Bridge, many were desperate to see Bailey start against Everton.
But they were again forced to wait as manager Dean Smith opted to name him among the substitutes, though again he did not need much time to impress after doing the damage with just 11 touches of the ball.
After the game, Bailey said: "To be able to accomplish what I did in 21 minutes is such an amazing feeling. I feel so happy with myself that I have scored the goal to welcome myself here as a Villa player."
The winger was taken off as a precaution in the 82nd minute after admitting he hit the ball too hard as he thrashed home Villa’s third.
But that is unlikely to disrupt his season further and we will more than likely see Bailey finally unleashed in a Premier League starting XI in the coming weeks.
Strings to his bow
While his cameo was explosive, it also showcased the wide range of attributes Bailey offers.
From the moment he was introduced, the Jamaica international showed a willingness to take players on out on the left flank in ways that they were not doing previously with left-back Matt Targett.
This is what you would expect from a £25m winger but Bailey also showed he has plenty more to offer.
What was perhaps less known is Bailey’s immense threat from set-pieces, as showcased in Villa’s second goal.
His inswinging corner forced Lucas Digne to reach high and divert the ball into his own net as the hosts stormed into a 2-0 lead.
After it flew into the net, there was only one man the Villa players ran towards to congratulate after a pinpoint delivery which would have proved dangerous for any defence.
Moments later with two defenders pressuring him inside Villa's half, Bailey showed a calmness you do not always associate with wingers to waltz clear before switching play to safety.
Bailey showed ruthlessness in front of goal as he used his frightening pace to latch onto Danny Ings’ pass and fire home in convincing fashion.
Smith said: "He (Bailey) is one who is going to be a crowd favourite, that is for sure. He has great ability, showed great delivery from a set-piece and scored an excellent goal too.
"He gets bums off seats and that's what supporters here want to see. He's really special, a really good player and that's why we got him here. He's a good lad, the lads love him."
Filling the Grealish void?
When Grealish left after 20 years at the club, the West Midlands outfit decided they would need a trio players to fill the considerable void he left.
Those three were Emiliano Buendia, Ings and Bailey but the three have rarely been seen on the same pitch so far.
Villa’s start to their new era without their former skipper has not been helped by Smith rarely having a full squad to choose from so far.
Bailey’s injury disruption and Buendia’s absence following the fall-out from his involvement with Argentina means Villa’s settling in period post-Grealish has been disjointed to say the least.
Striker Ings has wasted no time in getting settled with four goal involvements in five starts, while Buendia has also already opened his account in a bright start since joining from Norwich.
The third piece to the new-look attack finally showed he is the real deal on Saturday, so the prospect of the three linking up together in future games is an exciting one.
Of those brought in, left-sided Bailey is the player who is most similar to Grealish and he has already shown he has the quality needed to make himself a star at Villa.
Throw in last season’s top scorer Ollie Watkins into the equation, and Bailey helps form an arguably more rounded attack to the one that struggled when Grealish was absent last season.
After his thunderous strike sealed Villa’s impressive victory, commentator Daniel Mann said: "Leon Bailey announces himself to the Holte End crowd.
"Villa Park, this famous football cathedral, has a team worthy of the stage again. A team to be proud of, they are showing their class."
If Bailey continues to thrill in the way he has then the Villa Park faithful may just have their new hero.