Howard praises “special” Barkley
Everton goalkeeper has heaped praise on star midfielder Ross Barkley, calling him “special” and “fearless”.
The USA international also believes comparison with the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard does not flatter him and that he is well able to handle any pressure that comes his way.
“He is special. He has a lot to learn but the thing I love about Ross – which I have not seen in a ton of other players, and I think that is why he gets named with some of the best – is he is fearless,” Howard said.
“In this country Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, those guys were ‘throwing fire’ in their teens and early 20s, and they flourished and that is why Ross is special.
“He wants the big moments, he wants the ball and he doesn’t shy away from it – when I was his age I wanted nothing to do with being near the pitch or the spotlight because it was too daunting but he is special in that regard.
“I think Ross can handle it. He enjoys that pressure, he is not afraid of it.
“His football education has been here and it continues to be here and he has guys around him.
“As special as he is, we don’t let him drift off with his head in the cloud. We keep him grounded.”
Barkley opened the scoring in Everton’s win over QPR on Monday when he was used in a deeper central midfield role than usual.
“I think he has to learn the intricacies of playing in the deeper role, it is more disciplined,” Howard added.
“Number 10 is a bit more flair, he has a licence to go forward and his tackling doesn’t have to be as precise.
“It was a good learning experience for him and we can use him in that position.”
Everton boss Roberto Martinez is delighted with Barkley’s progress and certainly isn’t surprised that the youngster did so well in central midfield, indicating that it may even turn out to be his best position in the long run.
“He is someone who can develop into a player who can master a few roles,” Martinez said.
“The most impressive aspect of his goal was how he got into that position – not many players have that power, pace, ball control and ability.
“I think it (a deeper role) suits Ross really well. With certain players the shorter the distance they have to cover to have an influence in the game the better but Ross is the opposite – the more ground he has to cover the more effective he is at times.
“He controlled the game, not just the goal. The way he measured his positioning and tactical awareness was very impressive.
“That deeper role brings a bit more understanding of being aware of what is around you.
“You need to have good experience and a good footballing brain because it tests you and gets you thinking all the time, and it is very important young players have to think while they are on the pitch.
“Ross is clearly benefiting from that and I do see him being able to master those two roles.”
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