Everton boss Roberto Martinez says he has no qualms about leaving Ross Barkley in his team – as the teenager is more than ready to handle the rigours of first-team football.
Barkley delivered a five-star performance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Norwich, netting his side’s first goal with a classy strike from the edge of the box.
But it was the maturity evident in his all-round display that impressed Martinez most.
And the Spaniard is encouraged to see his prodigious young talent is already displaying experience well beyond his years.
“The goal that he scored was a wonderful piece of skill and a wonderful piece of quality but I was really happy with his contribution, the responsibility he took and his performance,” said Martinez. “Any youngster could be very, very proud of what he did. He got on the ball and he made us play.
“It’s not about him wanting to perform like that consistently – I think that’s where he is now.
“I think he is a lot older in terms of football experiences and I think his time with England has really helped him in terms of opening his mind.
“His loan periods have helped as well and going through a serious injury at a young age too [Barkley fractured his leg in three places while playing for England Under-19s in October 2010].
“So I would say he is a lot ‘older’ than his age reflects. All I am guided by is his work and what he has done in pre-season and, for me, he’s a player in a very, very good moment of form but physically and mentally he’s in a very good moment as well.”
The next opportunity for Barkley to impress could come this weekend with the visit of West Bromwich Albion.
Darron Gibson, absent from the draw at Carrow Road because of a knee injury, is pushing hard for a return but is unlikely to be risked.
That leaves the door firmly open for Barkley to start only his third league game at Goodison Park and first since September 2011.
“He’s mature and he’s desperate to keep that place,” added Martinez. “I think when you’ve got good competition for places in football, the mentality narrows down really quickly – all he wants to do is keep that place and keep enjoying his football.
“That’s what I want him to do. He’s been performing in that manner throughout pre-season in different spells and now he wants to make sure that continues. “