DAVID MOYES admits he faces a dilemma in helping Ross Barkley fulfil his Everton first-team potential.
The Blues boss recalled the gifted teenager from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday in November as injuries reduced his midfield options, but insists it is not easy to blood him in high-pressure Premier League games.
Moyes is set to give Barkley, 19, a chance to shine in tonight’s FA Cup third round tie against League Two outfit Cheltenham Town, but will not rule out loaning him out again in January to help his development.
He said: "We have to remember he is a young boy and we’re bringing him on. He missed a bit of football but I will continue to edge him nearer to our first team. When the right opportunities come and I think it’s the right time, I will do that.
"If I don’t get him enough of them I will put him back on loan. That’s my thoughts. Probably people can see where he is needing the games and where he is still needing more experience. The boy is going to be a very good player but he is still young and still young maturity wise and we have to be wary of that.
"We’ve no problem with boys making mistakes, but you don’t want to make mistakes that cost the team, especially when we are in such a good position. It’s something I have to balance. When can I give him the opportunities when maybe the mistakes aren’t so important? If I can’t find those times then I will have to let him go back on loan and let him learn more somewhere else."
Moyes will assess whether he is able to further reinforce his midfield during this month’s transfer window before he makes a decision on Barkley’s short-term future, but thinks the spell at Hillsborough – when the England U-21 international scored four goals in 13 appearances – helped him to mature.
"He came back a much better player," said Moyes. "He had more maturity about him and the games did work for him and help him. We have to remember he is just 19 and we should not expect too much, too soon from him. Everyone builds him up and they need to take a step back and let him come on. We’ll get him in the team when we think he is ready.
"Some come on sooner than others. Players develop at different times and we have to see where. Because we developed the likes of Wayne and Jack there’s a clamour to see it again, but they’re not all the same. They come along in different ways.
"The big thing for Ross was at 15 he missed over a year of development with a broken leg and hernia operation, so he missed a lot of personal development at that age."
Seamus Coleman should be fit for tonight, but Kevin Mirallas is not yet ready.