The versatile 17-year-old, capable of playing in defence and attack but most comfortable in midfield, suffered a triple leg break on England U-17 duty in October and is not yet fully recovered. Moyes revealed that if not for the horrific injury Barkley would have featured in the first team this season, having already appeared on the substitutes’ bench three times in his young career. Although the manager was cautious not to guarantee that Barkley will become a regular in the Everton XI, that Moyes has kept the youngster in his thoughts must be regarded as a positive sign. Indeed, given the tight budget constraints in which Moyes will operate this summer, Barkley’s return to fitness – he is expected to begin full training before the end of the season – will come at a fortunate time. A full pre-season with the first team could see the Wavertree-born player graduate to the first team, following in the recent footsteps of Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell and joining some of Everton’s other young guns, Seamus Coleman and Magaye Gueye.
Rodwell, Coleman and Gueye can all be considered great hopes for the future as well as current first team members, still rough around the edges but with enough quality to suggest more can be made of their undoubted talents. Rodwell, a converted centre-back, is occasionally hesitant in possession and reluctant to drive forward despite possessing impressive pace and power, evidenced by his solo goal against Manchester United a year ago. Coleman, naturally a full-back, has featured 35 times for Everton this season, scoring six from the right of midfield, where his dynamic dribbling has upset left-backs 10 years his senior. It is decision making that Coleman needs to work on, as too often his darting runs are wasted by a cross that comes too late or not at all. Gueye, the last of the trio to make his debut and a £1m summer signing, has a thunderous shot and monstrous strength, and in the few glimpses of first team action he has seen has not looked out of place in the Premier League. With the positive start made by each to their Everton career, it is easy to forget they are just 20, 22 and 20 respectively – and Coleman is an inexperienced 22, having only been at Everton since 2009.
With such young talents becoming part of a squad containing the likes of Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Marouane Fellaini, Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta – each in their mid-to-late 20s – and the experienced 30+ group of Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin, Everton’s on-field short, medium and long-term future should be safe. If Barkley, or one of the other lesser-seen but equally-regarded prospects, such as Shane Duffy or Aposlostos Vellios, make the grade, Everton’s chances of Europa League football or higher will increase dramatically.