Just as at The World Cup 2014 in Brazil limited to cameo sub games and a start in a dead rubber, ‘the new Gazza’ Ross Barkley was criminally overlooked at The Euros by Roy Hodgson and England.
As the post-mortem into England’s failure at France 2016 continues, the two pre-tournament friendly results that gave cause for real encouragement and hope both starred the 22 year-old Everton playmaker, who had high hopes to make an impact in France:
‘I feel like it has gone really well with England…But I do feel I can do better. When it comes around, I want to continue my performances and play in the tournament.
‘I’ve watched clips on Paul Gascoigne, in that match against Holland (at Euro 1996) when he ran the game. I was watching that while I was away with England. I try and replicate what I have seen. I think it is good to do that.’
Barkley started in midfield in the 2-0 win against France at Wembley last November, albeit in the aftermath of the Paris bomb attacks, and perhaps more revealingly, was a second-half substitute along with Jamie Vardy at 2-1 down against Germany and was instrumental in transfroming that into a 3-2 win.
With a typical forward pass, he was involved in the equalising goal receiving the ball off Deli Alli and playing it out wide to the onrushing Nathaniel Clyne whose cross was expertly flicked in by Jamie Vardy.
The wonderful way Barkley transforms defence into attack with driving runs, fast one-twos and clever inter-play has been a feature of Everton since his emergence in the first-team and the reason he is coveted by the likes of Inter and so highly-rated at home and abroad except where it mattered at Lancaster Gate despite a string of excellent performances for club and country.
At The Euros with Wayne Rooney in central midfield instead of Barkley, such pace, urgency and energy was missing, replaced by a slower build-up and The Three Lions may have been better playing their Captain in the striker role from which he scored a record 51 goals – with Barkley in midfield behind him threading passes like the one to Theo Walcott for his goal vs Estonia in a Man of the Match display.
Barkley’s 22 Caps have produced 2 goals – 2 more than Adam Lallana has managed in a blank quarter century caps now – vs San Marino & Lithuania, when he got the opening goal in a tricky away qualifier.
Yet despite a career-best 8 goals in a full 38-game Premier League season, Barkley was again overlooked by Hodgson, just as he had been at the 2014 World Cup despite sensational form both at the end of the Premier League season with a Goal of the Season contender against Newcastle and Man of the Match display in a pre-tournament World Cup friendly against Ecuador.
There’s no doubt that Barkely is a major footballing talent who has been likened and compared to the best players of the last two football generations, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney, both of whom have dazzled The Goodison Park faithful and not yet 23 is ready to continue the international tradition.
Its mystifying that a player Spanish midfield legend Xavi says has the talent, skills and ability to thrive in La Liga, has been described as the best player Tim Cahill ever played with and identified as a cross between Gazza and Michael Ballack by ex-boss Roberto Martinez was not selected by Hodgson.
New Everton boss Ronald Koeman will be excited at the prospect of managing a phenomenon like Barkley – if, of course, the Toffees hang onto him despite almost constant speculation linking him with a move to one of the Manchester giants and this close season, a $30M move to Inter Milan.
The 22 year-old can score and create from distance or close-range with both feet and absolutely frightens teams when running at them – at 6ft 2in tall with the build of a boxer he is a powerhouse and would have given England extra steel and the physical presence they lacked to stand up to Iceland.
France, seeing Iceland’s tough approach, started Moussa Sissoko for the first time in the tournament, a man with a very similar height and build to Barkley and he thrived in a Premier League-type battle where comparative lightweights Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, were bullied out of it as they had been against Uruguay at the last World Cup.
“We need to be more ‘streetwise’” was the lesson Wayne Rooney took from the last World Cup yet still Hodgson and England attempted to prevail with technically good footballers but those lacking the physical and mental competitive qualities necessary to survive in do-or-die tournament conditions.
As ever, a root and branch review of England, the FA, the Academy system, the Premier League’s real value et al. has been started by journalist, pundits, would-be managers and fans alike but England’s woes boil down to the wrong manager ultimately picking the wrong players to play in the tournament.
Other countries, notably France with Dimiti Payet after a terrific season with West Ham in the Premier League, select the players on top form doing it regularly in the top Leagues and its likely Barkley’s form last season scoring against Arsenal and Man City plus half a dozen other lesser teams would have earned him selection by other nations.
Fresh, effervescent, dynamic, difference-making, goal-scoring and creating talents like Barkley and Andros Townsend – 3 goals in 11 Caps – should have been playing not those who flatter to deceive continually like Raheem Sterling.
BBC football writer Phil McNulty tweeted last week, ‘Everton pair Ross Barkley and John Stones can return from Euro 2016 without a stain on their record’ yet that is scant consolation to the players themselves who missed out at the tournament – or England.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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