What is Ross Barkley for?

Ross BarkleySo it happens once again. An England manager calls up an Everton player and doesn’t use him.

Theres a joke going round Twitter at the moment courtesy of Paddy Power stating the following “Great gesture: the FA has given this young England fan free tickets to the last 7 England games”

This was posted together with a picture of Ross Barkley.

What has Ross got to do to get a game? What’s he done wrong? What actually is he for if it’s not to play a creative role in England’s stuttering side? It’s not as if England are actually any good, that they can afford to leave creative players on the bench while the drudgery continues on the pitch. But at least he got called up! OK he’s divided opinion amongst blues, I accept, but he’s playing well at the moment.

I have a love/hate relationship with the England team and it’s link with Everton football club. On one hand it’s great recognition for the player if he gets called up for the national team. On the other hand it’s often a poisoned chalice given the serious injury to Seamus Coleman against Wales and the ongoing treatment of James McCarthy by the Republic of Ireland management team. With England it goes back a long time although I can only vouch for the 1970s onwards.

The biggest crime of all in my opinion was the omission of Howard Kendall from the list of Englands full internationals and Colin Harveys solitary cap. I was a child around that time but looking back it seems outrageous that this happened at all.

I’ve spoken to many older Everton supporters over the years and some cite Harry Cattericks uneasy relationship with the media as a possible reason for Everton players being frozen out of England teams. I wouldn’t know that but when Everton players Martin Dobson and Dave Thomas only received one England cap between them whilst an Everton player when they were playing the best football of their careers and Bob Latchford only amassing 12 caps in total despite being the top English goalscorer of his generation, you begin to wonder why.

The 1980s were better but only because Everton were so successful. To think that Peter Reid only amassed 13 caps (injuries accepted), the same as Alan Smith years later and only one more than Andy Sinton. Trevor Steven got 36 caps compared to a 26 year old Jordan Henderson with 32 to his name already (and bizarrely being talked about as the England captain of the future). Bobby Robson during the 1986 world cup only settled by accident on his best team after the sending off of Ray Wilkins (amazingly 84 caps) and injury to Brian Robson forced his hand. Peter Reid and Trevor Steven coming in with immediate impact. It’s amazing to think that without Paul Bracewells injury, Everton could easily have supplied Englands whole midfield, on merit. Although I doubt any England manager would have had the guts to have done so.

Just looking at a list of England players Alan Smith (19), Danny mills (19) and Luther Blissett (14) amongst them shows that players don’t even have to be international class to earn a significant amount of caps. It isn’t just England as Graeme Sharp wasn’t deemed good enough to gain more than 12 appearances for Scotland.

Back to Ross and it’s being reported that Gareth Southgate has had a chat with him citing that the way the game was being played out against Lithuania was the reason he couldn’t introduce him during the match. Play well for his club then he will get his chance? Just like the out of form Oxlade-Chamberlain I assume. England were in no danger at all during the game, so what kind of excuse is that? What about the Germany game, a friendly. Then again, Southgate can’t be blamed for all seven games Ross has been sidelined for but given he’s suffered with his confidence in the past, it seems poor man management by Southgate at best.

It appeared during the European championships last summer that both Ross and John Stones had come out of it well, given they were the only outfield players not to play. Stones then moved to Manchester City and without being particularly impressive and prone to mistakes, has managed to cement a place in Englands starting eleven, while Ross, albeit with a poor start to the season is now playing as well as he has been for maybe 18 months. Yet can’t even get on the pitch. It seems common sense to me that if you bring a player back after a period of time, the best way to see if he’s any good is to play him, or have I got that one wrong?

Like I suggested, it’s a poisoned chalice playing for England. Everton comes first every time for me. My take on it, however is that to keep our best players we have to fulfill their own ambitions and if that means them playing international football, then we have to accept it or expect them to leave. I’m hopeful without being confident that the new regime in charge at Everton will change things for the better as far as international recognition is concerned and our players will feel they can achieve their ambitions with Everton, but I won’t hold my breath.

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Paul Chaloner

Paul Chaloner was born less than a mile from Goodison Park in 1962. He retired to Spain where he follows Everton from afar. He went to his first Everton match in 1970 (5-2 v chelsea), sold cushions in the stands throughout the 1970s until they were abandoned in the early 1980s and continued to watch the blues until relatively recently before going to live in Spain. He has three sons, all blues!

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