There’s always one isn’t there? So let me be it. Leave Ross alone.
I’ve watched the tidal wave of bile aimed at Ross Barkley across the admittedly poisonous waters of Twitter with a growing sense of disbelief and disappointment. ‘Greedy bastard’. ‘Ungrateful c*nt’. ‘Overrated anyway’. ‘He’s always been s***e’. A quick glance at the replies to an Evertonian’s followers after he asked his followers to sum up Barkley in 3 words contained a variety of similar reactions.
Sum Ross Barkley up & his time at #EFC in three words.
Mine: Poor decision making.
— David Downie (@daviddownie17) July 26, 2017
The consensus appears to be that his refusal to sign a generous new contract is just the latest in a career littered with mostly on the pitch, poor decisions. If he was a diamond 2 months ago, he’s a piece of knock off plastic now.
There’s a tendency for football fans to lose their collective s**t when one of their stars announces he’s heading for pastures new. West Ham fans reaction to Payet’s ‘strike’ was one of the most potent and funny examples of this recently. And it’s understandable. The rejection feels as personal as getting binned off by your teenage girlfriend when the lad in the year above with the nice car shows her some attention.
But we’re not teenagers. And while so much of being a fan is about emotion – the emotions on show about Barkley are just embarrassing. We need to look at this with a cool sense of detachment and stop behaving like we’ve been personally insulted. Here’s my defence of Ross against some of the more common accusations:
1. He’s greedy
First we don’t know what number has been rejected outside of gossip and self-proclaimed ITKs and we don’t even know whether it was the money on offer that was the issue. Some are saying that he wanted assurances from Koeman that he’d get game time. The truth is nobody knows. And if it was the money consider this. Everton have just agreed a reported 150k a week deal for Wayne Rooney. By every measure Barkley is better than Rooney based on current form – the Rooney of yesteryear? No. But its now – not then. Yet somehow nobody is losing their rag about a ‘well past his prime’ Rooney being top earner.
And while we’re on the subject – I remember when Rooney left us. I’m happy he’s back but can’t help but look at the double standards on offer here and I bet Ross has noticed it too. Ross has done more for Everton in his time here than Rooney ever did. Yet we bend over for Wayne and behave like shit throwing chimps every time Ross’ name is mentioned.
2. He’s s**t
No he really isn’t. He’s brilliant. And while I accept Koeman’s qualified to decide whether he’s first team quality, we really shouldn’t be listening to a bunch of Fifa 17 addicts on Twitter on what makes a good player. He makes mistakes. Every player does. Except Schneids of course. But the bar for Ross was set so high by a section of fans and somehow it became his fault when people not fit to lace his boots judged him unworthy. He had to carry the unwanted burden of expectation based on the fact that he was ‘one of us’ – a completely unfair standard he could never reach. Not trusted by Moyes and not trained by Martinez, we saw glimpses of what he could be at his best under Ronko. Its no coincidence he got better as the season wore on. Unfortunately that development is over.
And for those of us who think shelling out 50 million for someone who couldn’t get into the Spurs XI is compensation, I’d ask you to just look at the stats. Last season from open play Barkley created more than twice the chances that Sigurdsson did. He also created more than Rooney and Sandro. Sigurdsson has the edge on assists over the last 3 seasons but he takes all the set pieces. In open play, hands down, Barkley is our best.
3. Why would a blue want to leave Everton?
Well this is it really isn’t it? This is why and it always has been why our anger is so great. He’s living our dream. He had the chance. And he’s turning down something we’d sell our grannies for. HOW COULD HE? Doesn’t he understand? But this isn’t about him. It’s about us. He’s a professional footballer. It’s his job. And yet we expect him to put our feelings first. And again – here comes Rooney, seemingly forgiven for leaving us for the cash while we scream our hatred at Barkley for daring to do what every person in working life does – wanting to get what they think they’re worth. We wouldn’t apply the same level of venom to Gana or even Lukaku if they demanded more and left because they didn’t get it. It’s because he’s us.
The truth is Ross has carried the weight of our envy and hope. The behavior of some of our fans toward him has made me embarrassed to be a Blue at times. I wouldn’t be surprised if fan reaction was a factor in his contract refusal. Who could blame him? In his home town, the anger and criticism must feel twice as hot as it would for an outsider. Why would he stay? He must worry that for some fans, once a boo, always a boo.
If he’s to leave us, let’s send him on his way behaving with the class and dignity some of us never showed when he was on the pitch. We should thank him, wish him well and always welcome him back. If we don’t, the truth is that he was better than we deserved. And then we should never do this to Tom Davies.