Fans, pundits and media alike are very good at raising expectations regarding young English talent. Often we get it quite wrong. However, I am going to stick my neck on the line and say that we haven’t seen a talent like Ross Barkley since Paul Gascoigne.
I can hear the Arsenal fans screaming “what about Jack Wilshere?” Yes Wilshere is an unbelievably talented footballer, but I think Barkley’s talent is more akin to the maverick Gascoigne.
What is so frustrating about watching the national team play, is the fear that English players seem to show when the opportunity arises to take on a player, or to try something that may result in losing the ball.
Many of our international midfielders play square, or backwards passes all game long. Obviously keeping possession is a very important aspect of football. However playing negative passes (passes that are not designed to build an attack and seem to have no purpose), is a contagious ailment that the English national team that have been suffering from for quite a long time.
What was so refreshing about watching Ross Barkley against Newcastle United was his willingness to try things in the final third. Here’s a player that can pick up the ball in the middle of the park, turn, run at opposition defenders and commit players. Here’s a player that has the pace, quick feet, and confidence to beat opposition defenders. Here’s a player that has the clarity of mind to decide when to take it on, and when to pass to a teammate in a better position. Here’s a player that can link the play, but can also score goals with two highly impressive feet. Here’s a player that can control the midfield, and set the tempo of the game. Here’s a player that is only 19.
It is no coincidence that Everton’s very good start to the season has coincided with Barkley’s inclusion into the starting team. He has made a huge impact in all of the games he has played so far this season. Ross Barkley running at opposition defenders won the two free kicks scored by Leighton Baines against West Ham last week.
Amazingly, aged 16 Ross Barkley was told his football career might be over after breaking his leg. Well, I for one am very glad that Barkley’s career is only just getting started.
Let’s hope that Roy Hodgson has taken note of these impressive performances, and let’s hope that when Barkley plays for England he plays with the same panache and confidence that he exhibits for Everton.