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19 Dec H Bournemouth EFL Cup
22 Dec H Leicester English Premier League
26 Dec A Watford English Premier League
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The Making of Me: Ross Barkley


I was playing street football and my mum heard from a friend that there was a local club I could join, so she took me down. I took part in a few training sessions and they saw I had a bit of talent and asked if I’d be able to take part in a game that weekend. They were called Ash Celtic and when I went down for my first game I didn’t have a top, so they gave me one to wear and I scored a hat-trick. After that it was every Sunday, and at first I was a centre-half because I was a big lad at a young age. I’d take the ball, go on a dribble and score a few goals.

I was playing for the Under-10s and Under-11s and scoring a lot, and then it would be in the papers. One week there was a headline saying: ‘Bank on Barkley,’ because of all the goals I’d scored, and there were a few scouts watching our games. Our coach at the time didn’t want me to go to Everton. They would always be asking if they could speak to me but the coach would say no because they wanted me to play the season there. I mentioned it to my mum and she got in touch with someone she knew, who was a scout, and they then got in touch with the main scout at Everton, a man called Sid Benson who has passed away now, who wanted to take me there.

I ended up going for a trial. We had an in-house game, 11 v 11, with a few subs on the side and it was the players who had been signed plus a few triallists. Because for my Sunday team I’d be dribbling the ball upfield, playing a one-two and then shooting, that’s what I did in this game, and I guess you don’t really see many centre-halves doing that. Straight away Everton said they wanted to sign me on that day and I remember my mum being really shocked.

When I was younger England would take 40 players on a four- or five-day trial.
They put me in midfield because they saw I was good on the ball, and from there I started playing in midfield for Everton. At 14 I was playing Under-18s, and because it was a big step up I wasn’t playing in defence because the lads were all really big, so I would play in midfield, as a striker and even now and then as a full-back. Throughout my time in the Everton Academy I played in every position so I had a good understanding of different positions.

Paul Tait, my Under-14s coach at Everton, helped me a lot.
I’d be playing above my age group but because I couldn’t always get the days off school to train with them, I’d train with my own age group. At the time you could see I needed to play above so he would always push me in training and make sure my standards didn’t drop. I had high standards anyway but he was always on top of me and doing little drills with me away from the group because I’d always get to training early. He worked a lot with me and I’m still in touch with him now. Then there was Sean Lundon at Under-16s, he brought me in to play with them when I was 13 or 14 and he was always telling me how to improve in order to get into the first team.

I was due to make my debut against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, but it was at the time of the looting in London in 2011. The game was called off, so I was frustrated. A week later we had an in-house game and I scored a couple. Then I made my debut against QPR at 17. I started on the left wing, and then played on the right wing in the second half. I got man of the match and I was so close to scoring, so I was buzzing.

In Liverpool you can go to a Sunday League pitch and there are always good players.
Football in Liverpool is very competitive and I think that’s the reason why there have been a lot of good players to come out of the city, and I think there will be a lot more in the future because of how it is. There are games on all the time, in midweek as well. It’s a small city compared to London but there’s a lot of quality coaching.

I came on for England against Italy in the first game of the 2014 World Cup and it was a really proud moment. I got a start in the last group game against Costa Rica. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney were all in the squad, Gary Cahill was in it as well, and before the World Cup I was in a squad with Ashley Cole, so it was a great experience to be around those players daily and see how they trained and approached games. They were passing on advice to me.

It was a hard decision to leave Everton but I’m 24 and I wanted to make the big jump to a massive team like Chelsea and challenge myself. I wanted to improve and the best way for me to improve is to be surrounded by world-class players.

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