Roberto Martinez described the midfielder as capable of becoming “something special” after pre-season friendly at Blackburn
If anybody wanted any evidence of Ross Barkley’s determination to make his mark at Everton FC this season, it came via, of all people, Howard Webb last Sunday afternoon.
The referee was forced to give Barkley a stern ticking off after the youngster’s enthusiasm got the better of him with a crunching tackle during the friendly win over Real Betis at Goodison.
Having, for a variety of reasons, waited so long for an extended first-team opportunity, Barkley would be forgiven for not taking it easy.
Following his initial impact on debut at the start of the 2011-12 season, it wasn’t until the tail end of last season that Barkley began to indicate he was ready to make the step up in grade permanent.
It has certainly impressed new manager Roberto Martinez, who described the midfielder as capable of becoming “something special” after a sterling performance in the friendly win at Blackburn Rovers last month.
Of course, it was at Ewood Park almost two years ago that Barkley was betrayed by a lack of experience in a display that would be his last Premier League start in 20 months.
Now, though, Barkley is ready to do his growing up in the glare of the top flight once again.
And Martinez seems content to indulge the Wavertree-born player, who has every chance of starting the Spaniard’s first competitive game in charge of Everton when they begin their Premier League campaign at Norwich City this afternoon, not least given ongoing concerns over the fitness of Darron Gibson.
“This is football, you play with your feet so you are going to make mistakes,” says the Goodison manager. “It is a game of errors.
“But what I look for from players is how you react to a mistake: does it stop you getting on the ball again? Do you come a bit more cagey?
“What I have seen from Ross is that it doesn’t matter whether he makes a mistake, he is ready to get on the ball again. He just carries on playing in the same manner.
“When a player does that, I have no problems whatsoever.
“Mistakes are going to happen. As a team, sometimes you have to be prepared for those mistakes and you need to help your team-mate, you have to get them out of jail sometimes.”
Martinez adds: “The biggest strength Ross has is that he doesn’t get affected by making mistakes.
“He has got such an incredible talent that we need to help him, so he knows how to control that. I have never seen Ross make a mistake and then be affected in the next action.
“Sometimes you will see start a game really well but then they will make a mistake and, all of a sudden, he doesn’t want to participate.
“Ross is not like that at all. I really admire that. You know that somewhere down the line, he is going to get rid of those mistakes.”
Barkley has continued to flourish on the international stage. After proving a rare success of England’s under-20 World Cup campaign this summer, he scored for the U21s on Tuesday night in their 6-0 romp over Scotland.
And Martinez says: “I watched him play for the under-21s the other day and I could see the same player we have at Everton.
“That tells you a lot. He is very mature at this present time. Maybe that is because he had to go through difficult experiences with injury.
“The longer you are at a club, the more you get to know the surroundings and you get respect from everyone.
“That takes time but you can see that he is ready to give something to the first team.”
While acknowledging the importance of the campaign for Barkley – and fellow youngster, £3m January signing John Stones – Martinez falls short of suggesting it is make-or-break for the duo.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he says. “I wouldn’t give him an ultimatum. I can only speak about what I have seen from a really impressive young man.
“He and John Stones, they have both been at a very good level. John played against Juventus and he was man of the match.
“Ross, in every game that he has played, he has shown that little bit of magic that not everyone has.
“I have been very impressed with both players. Is this the most important season of their careers? I don’t know.”
With Nikica Jelavic having edged ahead of Arouna Kone for a striking berth on the strength of his four-goal return during pre-season, there is every chance Everton will take to the field at Carrow Road without any of Martinez’s summer signings.
It underlines the strong legacy that has been left behind by David Moyes, with the new man revealing he bent the ear of his predecessor on taking over at Goodison.
“I did, early on,” says Martinez. “It seems like an eternity now but obviously when I was appointed I spoke with him.
“He was very, very helpful. This is the third club I’ve managed here and you arrive at Everton and everything is in place.
“David Moyes did a magnificent job here. But you quickly move on. He’s got an important job on his hands and I’ve got an important job on my hands so we have to look forward.”
With his career ahead of him, they are sentiments with which Barkley would wholeheartedly agree.