One of the most impressive moments of Frank Lampard’s early days as Chelsea manager came when addressing Ross Barkley’s problems with a Liverpool taxi driver last week.
Barkley made the news pages of the Mirror after being pulled up by a cabbie in his home town for spilling chips in his vehicle. According to the story, Barkley was drunk and that has not been denied.
Lampard’s response was appropriate and measured.
Those are little things that shouldn’t happen,’ he said calmly. ‘What he has done is to be naive. I like Ross but he has admitted making a mistake. I will take that at face value and we move on.’
Lampard made some mistakes off the field during his own career. They were more serious than Barkley’s indiscretion, too. Maybe they have given him perspective.
Undoubtedly he learned from them and now Barkley must do the same. The Chelsea player will soon be 26, which is not old but does put him at that stage of his career where he should be somewhere near his peak.
Barkley is not at his peak, though. He is still playing catch-up after a couple of seasons at Everton that was lost to injury, uncertainty about his future and the fact that one manager in particular — Ronald Koeman — did not rate him.
So, this season at Chelsea should be important to him. Too important to be wasted littering the streets of Merseyside on a weekend.
Lampard is right. Barkley’s conduct that night was low on the sliding scale of footballers behaving badly. The police, for example, have no record of it. But it was abysmally timed and that is the point. In Lampard’s team, in Gareth Southgate’s England squad again, these should be days for Barkley to keep his head upon the pitch — he has always been good at that — and down off it.
A look at Southgate’s group hints at the opportunity. No Dele Alli, no Jesse Lingard. Two attacking players who started England’s World Cup semi-final last year are not there. It’s an open goal for Barkley and he must not miss it.
I have always championed him, even during his difficult days. Barkley has a lovely vision and can play off both feet. He has football intelligence that you cannot teach but you have to be smart off the field, too. Traps are everywhere if you are dumb enough to fall into them. Read More