Toffees Youngsters Becoming Unstuck Under Martinez

I watched with real interest the performances of Ross Barkley and John Stones yesterday at Goodison Park and I have to say overall I was disappointed at what I saw from both.

Don’t get me wrong, they will get nobody, nobody cheering them on for England more than me in the summer and as a former pro it’s obvious to see both are fine footballers with the ability to go to the top of their trade.

But the Everton manager is letting them down.


Because good players at any age aren’t taught to make their mistakes on a Premier League football pitch, that’s what the training ground is for, and when repeated errors are made, a good manager steps in, stops the session and shows the player the right way. It’s that simple.

John Stones
Rio Ferdinand tweeted that he was lucky to have been allowed to make mistakes while at West Ham. I’m sure the West Ham faithful who saw a cocky, confident but overplaying central defender who cost them the odd goal didn’t always agree. Rio did a wonderful bit of skill, a roundabout, on me at the Boleyn against Villa years ago, went past me a treat, but I never saw him do it at Man United where his basic excellent reading of a game was the only thing Fergie was interested in, and I’m pretty sure Fergie would have said on more than one occasion “just fucking defend Rio, that’s what you’re paid for`”

So the notion of young players being allowed to make repeated mistakes just because they are young is not only poor coaching but immensely disrespectful to one of England’s most successful and biggest football clubs, Everton. Are we really saying it’s ok to do flicks, tricks and repeated poor decisions because it’s Everton rather than if he made the £50m move to Barca, Chelsea or Man City? That’s ludicrous!

What John needs is what Lukaku has had from Big Dunc. Someone to take him to one side and tell him he’s in the team primarily for his defensive reading and covering, and should the need arise to use skill to get himself out of dodge, then use it.

What happened yesterday I’m told by Evertonians is something he does a lot, split to the right of the box and repeatedly pass back to Tim Howard.

Opposition are wise to it so know when to close down. How about whatever his age, John simply adds logic in that situation, something like “who’s better at clearing the ball from danger? A goalkeeper or outfield player?”. Job done.

Ross Barkley
As for Ross, he’s intrigued me for a number of years. I keep my ear to the ground and before being an Everton/England regular the rumours were he was untrustworthy, ill disciplined in his on pitch decision making and not a natural football intellect, such as a Hoddle for example. In other words it was off the cuff magic that was going to be hard to fit into a team discipline.

I still see that as the case at Everton and yet again I point the finger of blame at the manager.

Ross came too deep to pick the ball up, and was allowed to do it at least 20 times in the first half. Why, when one of the best ever in the Premier League at sitting and playing, Gareth Barry, is in the team? Nothing from Roberto to rectify it, just a young talented kid indulged rather than taught in-game. He’s dangerous 40 yards further up the pitch.

Learn From Spurs
Ross, John and even Roberto Martinez in my opinion could do much worse than look at the progress of some of the Spurs youngsters. Playing in the right areas, no frills until the final third and an attention to detail that mirrors that of a manager who will manage one of Barca/Real someday, Pochettino. Maybe that’s why the common consensus is that while Poch will go on and manage one of the big boys, Martinez has taken the best crop of Everton youngsters in a generation to three wins since September, against Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland. The bottom 3.

I like Roberto, and there is no doubt that getting the ball down and playing with freedom of expression is what we all want to see from our teams, but what he needs to realise is that the Barca model of play is being played by arguably the greatest team ever to don shirts, and that defenders like Pique and Mascherano aren’t being chased down from goal kicks by the likes of Andre Ayew who are scrapping for every point at the foot of the table! So Martinez needs to add pragmatism to his Barca fantasy, just like Wenger at Arsenal, and address the realities of the Premier League, namely defending and keeping cleans sheets give confidence to individuals and teams, not merely playing the ball out from the back.

For a young player having the right manager at the right time can make or break young spirits and lead them onto the path of believing they are better than they are rather than progressing nicely onto the expected level. Watching the way Martinez seemingly does little to iron out errors made by his mercurial pair while Poch at Spurs has Alli, Kane, Dier and co. disciplined, focused and team oriented makes me believe that while one manager may well be courted by the elite in the summer, the other may well be scratching around the lower end of the Premier League or an adventurous Championship project.

One has attention to detail, one hasn’t yet grasped the realities of English football. And in the mix, two young players with talent aren’t being helped along their way.