Ross Barkley has spoken to the press about his love for Everton, David Moyes, Roberto Martinez trust in him and the important advice that Stephen Gerrard gave to him on his recent England outing.
When Barkley was surprisingly called up for the recent World Cup qualifiers, Steven Gerrard shredded club rivalry to become a mentor. Regardless of affiliations, the England captain knows a natural successor when he sees one.
“Steven Gerrard spoke to me a lot on England duty,” said Barkley. “I sat next to him on the coach and he gave me loads of advice.
“He said that the big hitters are going to be looking at me and linked with me but that the main thing is I stay with the club I’m at, the team I support and the team I love, which is Everton. I love Everton and all I think about is playing for Everton.
“He told me that there is nothing better than being a local lad playing for your own team. He’s done that throughout his career. He said playing is the main thing, going to another team and not playing is no good for my development.”
“All Scousers are a bit different to anyone else. We are aggressive and winners,” says Barkley. “We want to win. It is a feeling. When I was a kid playing you’d get Scousers on the line shouting ‘get in, get in’ and it gets you built up. Playing Sunday league is tough. I just think it’s in our genes.
“I started playing Sunday league when I was nine and joined Everton when I was 11. I realised I had ability when Everton were playing me at higher ages. That made me believe in myself.
“When I was 14 I was playing for the under-16s and when I was 15 I was playing for the under-18s. I had to make my own way there. I would get a bus and it would take about an hour. I used to have to get home from school and get sorted quick and there were times I’d fall asleep on the bus and wake up at the stop after. I’d have to run back quick.
“You had other players my age who were getting loads of money. One used to turn up in his mum and dad’s Bentley. I’d be waiting at the bus stop and they would ask me if I wanted a lift home but I’d always say no because I was too embarrassed.
“You have seen players in the past at Everton who have been built up and they haven’t made the grade, the same with some players at Liverpool.
“The biggest influence for me are my mum and my sister, keeping my feet on the ground. When I was younger, I’d always say that one day ‘if I play for Everton’ and my mum would say, ‘no, when you play for Everton’. She’d always be positive for me. She’s still coming round to do things and I go round there for my dinner.”
“David Moyes told me he’d heard about me when I was 12 and had been waiting to work with me,” he said. “He let me have a training session with the first team when I was 14 and said he wasn’t scared to play me. I was hoping to make my debut at 16 like Rooney. I went away with England Under-19s and the manager said he’d give me my game when I got back.
“Then I broke my leg against Belgium. I spoke to the doctor in Belgium and he told me I might not be able to play again. I was really upset. I spoke to my mum and she said I’d be OK and when I got back to England they were more positive.
“A week later I was back at home and David Moyes came round to our house. There was a load of kids outside when they heard he was inside. He sat us down and said to my mum that I was going to be OK. I felt a lot better about myself after that visit. He said I was going to be OK and that the injury wouldn’t affect my career.
“He organised for the club to send me and my family to Tenerife for a week. It showed that he was looking out for me.
“It was easier to speak to him after that. I used to go into his office and he’d always be honest.
“I have had tough times and mentally it has been hard. Through the injuries I have had to be patient and wait to play for the first team longer. I’d say the new manager trusts me more but David Moyes helped me a lot. I probably could have played a lot more last season but I went on loan and learnt a lot while I was in the Championship.
“Dave Jones [Sheffield Wednesday manager] had confidence in me. He told me I was going to be a good player and said he thought I should have been playing for Everton at the time. He said he was privileged to have me.
“The only way you learn is from mistakes and Roberto is allowing me to make them so I can learn from them. He’s giving me information about where not to make mistakes and where I can afford to take risks. He said he believes I am going to be a big player for Everton this season and for seasons to come.”
“I don’t find it intimidating. I’m able to get on with it as if it’s a normal thing,” he says. “I don’t see it as something that should put me under any more pressure.
“I enjoy playing football and I don’t think of the other side of things like people talking about me, or anything like that. All I think about is playing football and getting better.
“I enjoy the recognition to be honest, although it is a bit surreal. Not long ago I was walking around town and if I saw someone famous I’d be staring at them. Now I notice people doing that to me. I laugh about it but it’s good. I see little kids going all shy when they see me, and that used to be me. It’s good.”
So back to all those points of comparison: who does Barkley prefer to be? The new Ballack, Gazza or Gerrard?
“Gazza. He’s a legend isn’t he? And Wayne Rooney because he came through at Everton,” he says.
“Zidane has been one of my favourite players, I was always watching videos of him.
“But I just want to be myself and maybe in future people will say that someone plays like me.”
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