Rooney offers advice to Barkley
Wayne Rooney called Ross Barkley over last week and repeated some wise words he heard from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a bid to improve the Everton midfielder's stuttering form.
This time last year, Barkley was regarded as the brightest young prospect in the English game - a tag Rooney is more than familiar with.
The midfielder was fast-tracked into Roy Hodgson's England squad after an impressive season with Everton and he continued to impress in the build-up to the World Cup, putting on a bruising Rooney-esque display on his first international start against Ecuador in Miami.
Barkley could not find his way into Hodgson's starting XI against Italy or Uruguay, but he was the first man the England manager turned to when the Three Lions were in trouble in their opening two World Cup games.
Things have not gone quite so swimmingly for the 21-year-old this season, though. His form has dipped, so Rooney has taken it upon himself to impart some advice from his old team-mate Solskjaer in order to boost his game.
"He and Everton hit the heights last season. He hasn't done as well as the team haven't recently," the England captain said of Barkley, who came on as a second-half substitute in the 4-0 win over Lithuania last week.
"But I spoke to him after the game on Friday and the only advice I gave him was to watch the game from the bench with England.
"He will know how to get into the opposition, where the spaces are. That's what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said to me when I was young, so you know where to be when you come on. If it helps, then great."
England manager Hodgson raised a few eyebrows when he criticised Barkley after the Ecuador game in Florida.
Instead of praising the player, he said he "lost the ball an awful lot" and when pressed on his performance again, Hodgson snapped: "I am not prepared to address your obsession with Ross Barkley."
Hodgson said he was trying to protect the player, rather than knock him down a peg or two.
Hodgson said: "I wasn't trying to criticise him. I was trying to dampen the enthusiasm that we had suddenly found a player with great quality, and the comparisons with (Paul) Gascoigne and (Bryan) Robson."
Hodgson's argument is undermined somewhat by the fact that he compared Barkley to Gascoigne last November.
Still, he says he is a big fan of the bustling Merseysider, who may get a run out at some point during Tuesday's friendly against Italy in Turin.
"The fact we selected him shows we believe in him," Hodgson said. "That's a boost."
To be fair to Barkley, he is not the only Evertonian to have struggled this season.
Until a couple of weeks ago, Roberto Martinez's men looked to be in danger of slipping into a relegation scrap but now they are nine points off the drop zone.
Barkley maintains his self belief has not been shaken by his bad form, but he also concedes he has not been good enough this year.
''I don't feel pressure. I believe in myself and I know what I can do. It's not me feeling pressure, it's just me putting pressure on myself if I don't do my best, and I know I can do better," Barkley told Premier League World.
''I just focus on getting better every day, putting things right in training and then hopefully what I'm doing right in training I'm going to show in games as well.''