Steven Gerrard has made 107 appearances for his country and if he plays in both of the upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany then he will move to 3rd on the all time list of most international appearances for England. He has been one of the first names on the team sheet since making his debut against Ukraine in 2000. He has been a crucial part of the England team even if it was an underachieving one during his time.
Whenever ‘Stevie G’ does retire it will provide an opportunity for someone else to stake their claim for his place in the side. In my opinion the leading contender to take over from Gerrard is Ross Barkley of Everton. One Liverpool-born player to take over from another.
Ross Barkley has already shown us this season that he has a lot of potential but not only that, as he can make an impact now. He has already made his England debut and looks set to be given a further chance against Chile and/or Germany. It is a fantastic story for someone who suffered a major injury just as he was making his first steps into the professional game.
After being named on the substitutes bench for Everton aged 16 early in the 2010-2011 season, Barkley looked set for his Everton debut sooner rather than later. He then broke his leg in three places whilst on England Under-19 shortly after. In a cruel twist it was in a collsion with his own England teammate; Andre Wisdom of Liverpool.
Barkley has recovered superbly from that early setback, and after good loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, now seems to have established himself under Roberto Martinez at Everton. He has already made nine starts for Everton this season, and looks to be an important part of the Everton side. Often playing in an attacking midfield role, he can be likened to Gerrard in many ways. When he came onto the scene as a youngster he was always keen to get forward and play through balls and try a few shots.
Barkley plays the game with a lot of confidence for a 19-year-old, he never looks overawed and seems like he will be able to handle the expectations from the country. As so often happens in this country the hype around a player can escalate all too quickly, but in many ways Barkley’s emergence this season isn’t a surprise. He was always a bright star when progressing through the England youth teams and many in the game expected him to shine through if given a chance at Everton.
Whilst David Moyes may have been wary of giving Barkley too much game time too soon (he started the first two games of the 2011-2012 season before only featuring from the bench four times more), Roberto Martinez has put his faith into the midfielder. Overcoming his injury may have made him mature, and this shows when he plays. He is not afraid to try the far-fetched passes that might not always come off. It’s clear he possess that little bit of magic that some players are naturally gifted with.
Barkley should be given plenty of game time for England and should definitely travel to Brazil if his form continues. Even in Brazil, Barkley could be used when England are in need of that bit of magic, or the confidence to try a long range shot when all else seems to be failing. If Gerrard does retire after the World Cup then it will be sad to see, but Ross Barkley should claim that starting spot straight away. Start playing him, see how the team progresses with him as a focal point and England may look a much more creative team.