There’s time when you see a player for the first time, and think 'This kid’s got it.' Sometimes it works out, other times not. Nineteen year old Ross Barkley has been at Everton since he was 11 and has progressed through the ranks until reaching the edge of the first team. Having had a couple of loan spells with Championship teams, the new season could be the one where the midfielder makes his mark in Everton blue.
Barkley has already played over a dozen times for the Goodison park outfit, but it’s surely now time for a sustained run in the first team and with new manager Roberto Martinez, the type of coach that gives young players an opportunity, it’s likely that Barkley will have his chance.
He made his debut in a 1-0 defeat to QPR, but his performance was widely acknowledged, and brought the comment from BBC pundit Martin Keown that he will “…be one of the best players we'll ever see in this country." Praise indeed, but it was that sort of performance that convinced Everton to offer the player a four-and-a-half-year contract in December 2011. Despite offers from other clubs anxious to secure the tyro, the Toffees have steadfastly resisted.
A six feet plus midfielder with a physique to match, coupled with rare talent, Barkley appear every inch the modern Premier League player, and has been capped by England at every level from U16 upwards. Whilst a full cap may be some way off yet, if he progresses as many forecast this season, come next May, a call up may not sound as fanciful as it perhaps does today.
Everton lost out on the best years of Wayne Rooney, but they will be keen to ensure that the same does not happen with next prodigy. The problem of course is that if Barkley starts to deliver the type of performances that he clearly has in him on a regular basis, it is inevitable that envious eyes will be cast upon him. Everton’s resolve to keep their young star may well be tested next summer.