Ross Barkley is in top form of his short Chelsea career so far. Despite a difficult start at west London, the England international has recently returned to producing spectacular performances in midfield – something that, in recent years, has seen him be dubbed as the next Paul Gascoigne while playing for his old side Everton.
A Liverpool native, Barkley spent his entire youth career at the Blue half of Merseyside, rising through the age ranks before establishing himself as a regular in the Toffees’ senior squad. Yet with undoubted talent, it would not be long before England’s elite came calling and as it stands, Barkley now wears a different shade of Blue, that of Chelsea at west London since his £15 million move in January.
Having started in three of the last four league games of Chelsea has had a massive effect in the form of the 24-year-old, who netted three strikes in this particular string of fixtures. As such, he looks certain to start in the west London club’s next league match – a game that is certainly of a particular significance to Barkley, as it is no other than against his former club Everton.
There is no doubt the England midfielder will be keen to show the Ross Barkley-shaped hole missing in Marco Silva’s side but Michael Ball, a former Everton man himself, has sent a warning to the 24-year-old about the rigours of going up against familiar faces.
Ball, a leftback who played for Everton in 1996-2001, recalls the difficulties he faced when he returned to face his old club in 2008 for Manchester City, and reiterates that Barkley may face the same situation come the weekend.
“If he plays on Sunday it will be the first time that Ross Barkley has come up against Everton which will be a strange situation and an uncomfortable one,” said Ball.
“I left Everton in the summer of 2001 and didn’t play against them for another six-and-a-half years until January 2008 but it was still so difficult.
“Everton are my club, my team and I’d been supporting them since I was three-or-four years old but all of a sudden I was on the other side wearing a different shade of blue.
“All your friends and family are watching and there’s the staff you’ve known for years and sometimes you end up trying too hard and that works to the detriment of your own team who are weakened by you doing so.
“You try and be professional and do the best for your team but it’s a strange feeling and Everton have got to turn that to their advantage with Ross.
“Mentality it will be a difficult afternoon for him. We know what Ross’ weaknesses are and have to exploit that.”