I love this image on so many levels
It’s almost worth a caption competition in its own right. Is it the delight of Barkley scoring a late equaliser? Is it the unconfined joy of the 18year old about to leap on his back? Or is it that the photo may encapsulate what future we want, based more on youth than the old guard?
Many clamoured for Tom Davies to start (just because you can grow bum-fluff under your chin mate doesn’t make you look any more than the 18 1/2 years you are), including me so I could use the line “me and Tom Davies both started at Hull shortly after our 18th birthdays. Him for Everton, marginally the bigger honour than me starting there at Uni just before Noah built an Ark. In truth, after an accomplished extended cameo at Leicester, Tom’s first five touches at Hull, coming on as a 66th minute Sub, went straight to an opponent, and his sixth was a comical slice that went for a corner. His improvement thereafter serve notice of his maturity as a footballer if not his ability to grow proper facial hair. In a game more fraught than many he’d have played in, and marking his arrival with gaffe after gaffe, he’d have been excused for retreating in to his shell, but far from it. He continued to demand the ball, kept his head up, and but for a sly shirt tug would have burst through at a crucial time in to the Hull box to be able to cross the ball to where no Everton player was probably standing. Still. Good effort, and we’re probably looking at Gueye’s immediate replacement until such time as Jimmy Limpleg is fit again. And I’m all for it. Give the lad a go. Energy, impetus, and a better passer of the ball than Gueye, if not necessarily up there with the Senegalese’s manic pressing and tackling. More of that in a minute.
What of the other starlet in the photo, young-is-he-surely-he’s-old-now Ross Barkley. Whilst Manager, commentators and fans alike squabble over whether a 23 year old who’s played 130 games for Everton across 6 seasons is still ‘young’, the reality is staring us straight in the face. An improved performance yesterday doesn’t hide that 23 is still, well, 23, and it’s blooming’ young, especially from where I’m standing on the chronology continuum. Age is an interesting thing. When you’re in your 50s (me), most people around you are the same age in terms of friendship sets, but even then you get some who are old before their time, and then there’s wannabee spring chickens like me still running half marathons and trail races in the lakes. Or, “in denial” as others might call it. Still, point made, there are young 50 somethings and older ones. Physically we may be different, but mentally we’re probably all in the same space, give or take. But when you’re 23, things are a bit different. There are 23 year olds, like Rooney and Barkley, who are solidly built and hard to bundle over, and some who haven’t got there yet, and are more likely to blow over in a faint breeze up the Mersey. Physically, more difference I suspect. And emotionally, mentally, whatever you want to call it, chances are the differences will be more marked. Whilst Ross is 23, he’s solid, he’s played loads of games at the top level, for both Club and Country, but he strikes me as being a bit immature, and likely more than the average 23 year old to be more sensitive to how he is managed. ‘Man Up’ I hear some say, well, yeh, that’s like telling someone who’s mentally ill to ‘cheer up’, or ‘pull yourself together’. It ain’t that easy. Your mind is your mind. It doesn’t necessarily hurry up at the same rate as everyone else, it adjusts at its own pace, although admittedly influenced by life experience.
Ross Barkley still needs time. He doesn’t need the weight of Goodison Park on his shoulders, literally in L4 or metaphorically when on the road in outposts like Hull. He’s still a child in so many ways, you only have to see him interviewed to realise that, and to hear the comment, more often than not, “ah, bless him”. We might wish it weren’t so, we might think the best way to improve him is to boo him or to at least audibly vent your frustration, but trust me, that isn’t going to work. We have to rely on the ‘in loco parentis’, nowadays Koeman, and previously Martinez, Moyes and the likes of Stubbs, Sheedy and co in the Academy, and his loan managers. They know, like we do (hence our frustration), that the lad has an abundance of talent, and it’s up to them to figure a way to get the best out of him. Personally, I think we’ll see the best of Ross Barkley when he’s matured at say 25 or 26. I just hope that he’s still with Everton. I believe he is indeed a diamond, wherever he’s from, and will go on to be a major part of Club and Country’s fortunes, and all we need, is someone to fathom out how. At least whoever does it has the raw material, the talent in place, and it’s how to get that brilliance to be shown more consistently and then improved (a lot) still further.
A word about Idrissa Gana Gueye. Without question, our best buy in many a year, certainly this. Pound for pound he does more for the team than any other player, yes, including Lukaku, but let’s not dwell on his finishing, but hey, he wasn’t bought for that, any goal tally a clear bonus – eventually. But. Whilst we all love him and get carried away with his stats and tackling in particular, his passing when anything other than 3 yards to someone who knows better, can be abysmal. He gave the ball away a lot yesterday, the same at Leicester, and has frequently been caught in possession. Get the ball Idrissa, give it to Gareth/Tom/Ross whoever, but don’t try and be the creative midfielder we crave, because you ain’t it pal. However, if you could please stub your toe on the way to the airport to rule you out of the ACON but have you fit and available for the City game, that’d be grand. Not that I want to deny you a chance to play for your country. No. Not at all. Never. Nope.
Right that’s me done for 2016, more excitement hopefully awaits me and Everton in 2017, starting with a clear out of dead wood at Goodison, and hopefully a few ready made recruits. A chance for youth to flourish in Davies, Barkley, Holgate, and others (oh Dominic, it was harder to miss than score….) and let’s make 7th place our own. Yeh. 7th. Bliss. Rubbish really, but genuinely can’t see a better position unless any side above us has a really stinking end to their 2016/17 season, and we turn our ability to beat Arsenal in to an ability to beat Hull, Watford, Swansea, etc etc.
I still believe we’re on a road, a long road, and we’re ahead of where we were, if not quite where we’d like to be. It’s a bit like being at crappy Birch Services on the M62 when you had your heart set on being at Hartshead Moor, but thank the Lord you’re not still at Burtonwood.
On that flaky analogy, Happy New Year one and all.