The opening day of the 2013-14 season, Norwich vs Everton, the game finished with a respectable 2-2 draw. Some might say normal service for the Premier League on the opening weekend but something was different that day. That something was Ross Barkley who managed a goal and a Man of the Match display. Even though footballing insiders all knew about this young man from Everton, most of Britain did not know the talent that announced himself that afternoon.
Even Match of the Day, former England hot shot and house wives favourite Gary Linker, chipped in and quoted ‘he is a star in the making and a prodigious talent’, and the standard procedure of every man and their dog comparing him to Rooney. Now as always, a young English man touches a football or shows a slight ounce of ability in the Premiership and the big white train of England international pulls into the station and silly people like me and other media bigwigs ( note I’m just silly and neither media big or a wig ) start writing things and comparing Mr Barkley to England legends such as Gazza, Platt, Robson, Hoddle and the rest, and then he is crowned the future of English football and we will win the World Cup!!!!!.
Now fast forward to the recent European qualifiers. England had to win two games to claim the 100% win record in their group. Please don’t be fooled, it was not the most taxing of groups but as my CPOS comrade Ollie said ‘you can only beat what’s in front of you’. The games were Estonia at home and Lithuania away and Barkley managed to score in one game and win Man of the Match in the other. Again the buzz started and all the big claims were made about the boy. Now I’m not writing this to say he is the chosen one or just another flash in the pan, what I am trying to say is, he is a different type of player that Everton and England have at their disposal. His 6ft frame makes him hard to handle for even the most accomplished Premier League player and he has two good feet (which is a good number to have I guess), vision, passing, shooting (and most likely quite good at golf), and the list can go on but what stands out for me with this young chap has nothing to do with a ball. It’s what he has between his ears. Now I’m not saying he has a PHD in Astro Physics but when he is on a football pitch he seems to be working at a different level than the norm. Which indeed on that note you can compare him to Gazza and his use of the ball and his running without it shows that he looks at the green landscape though the eyes of a more seasoned pro with 80 plus international caps. This is great news for our fearless leader Woy Hodgson with France round the corner or across the channel.
As I scribble on maybe we as England fans should by now have learnt a lesson. That we sometimes get these gems and we should support and offer the nurturing breast of the nation. If he has an average finals, or even completely buggers it up, not to vilify him as we and the good old press have done to the likes of Gazza, Beckham, Rooney and David Bentley. Yes, even he came unstuck after not accepting a request to turn out for the under 21’s, or even Ray Wilkins if you know who he is (England vs Morocco at Mexico 86 a silly red card). With all of this I am hopeful that his club manager, Roberto Martinez, has already drilled him and seems to be doing a fantastic job in moving his talent onwards and upwards. I think Everton is the perfect place for him grow and learn, and not the Man City bench like so many other wonder kids even to the point where if he does set Europe alight this coming summer, he should stay at Everton get more game time and help them crack the top 4 or 6 or whatever. If we the fans, the press, and Woy give Barkley some real support then we will have a player that will slide in at the back stick in the semi final against the Germans and score, or run up and smash the deciding penalty into the top bin in a quarter final shoot out against Portugal!!! So good people of Blighty, let’s wrap him up in cotton wool, get granny to spit on a hanky and clean his cheeks and give his undoubted talent the time it needs. Saying all this he will probably end breaking a Metatarsal on a cold night in Stoke and miss the whole bloody thing.