Belfast Telegraph

Time for Ross Barkley to deliver on his massive potential for England

By Paul Scholes

There are times in the career of every young English footballer when they simply need to take their chance to establish themselves. Having burst on to the scene last season, that moment is now for the bright young talent that is Ross Barkley.

Against Italy as a second-half substitute on Tuesday night he showed exactly the kind of form that is required to make his own the position in the team that I think he is best-suited to: the No 10, either at the top of a diamond or behind a lone striker.

When England play again in June, Barkley has to take the next step and claim that starting role as his own.

I rate him highly. He has the kind of pace and physique that few footballers his age can boast and technically he is an accomplished player.

He can go past an opponent on either side. He can score goals.

This lad has a lot to offer, but that alone will not be enough. He is still young, not 22 until December, but as ever in football there is no time like the present.

Looking at England's midfield over the last two games I would say that there is a great deal of energy and enthusiasm in there.

Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson are two players who can get to the ball quickly and disrupt opponents' play.

But England need that touch of quality at the tip of the diamond behind the two strikers.

It is that creative position, the No 10, that Barkley can make his own. But he has to force the issue. That difficult moment when you have to move from being a kid with potential to a consistent first-team regular who is one of the mainstays of the team is hard for young players. Many don't get the opportunity in the first place, or if they do they get only a brief one.

Our modern coaching culture is not to put too much pressure on any one performance, to let an individual flourish over time.

But when it comes down to it you do have to accept that you can't keep putting the moment off. At some point a young player has to grasp the opportunity and make himself undroppable.

Rooney did that at a very young age, and Harry Kane has done the same at Tottenham.

Barkley reminds me of a footballer I played alongside against Italy in La Tournoi in Nantes, 18 years ago. That was Paul Gascoigne, a substitute that day and, at his peak, a brilliant creative player. I think there is a bit of Rooney in Barkley, too.

The people I speak to about Barkley cannot talk highly enough of his professionalism and dedication.

Playing for an Everton team who have struggled this season, despite a better run in the last four games, has not helped Barkley. When I have watched him play for his club recently I have felt that he has tended towards the safe option in his play. But that is not what has made him the player he is so far in his career.

Barkley is one of those players who has to be encouraged to run at opponents and take shots at goal.

Since the World Cup last summer, England have become a much more energetic, aggressive team in midfield and that gives them a good basis.

In Barkley they have a player who may one day be capable of raising the national team to the next level. But in order to do that he needs to start taking his chances as he did on Tuesday. It's the hard part of making it as a top footballer, but there really is no alternative.

Belfast Telegraph


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