There isn't much exciting around the England team right now. Matches are met with apathy from supporters as the Three Lions rapidly slip from contenders to pretenders, so when a young player impresses in the Premier League, it causes a furore over how good they could become.
We've seen it happen, and with varying success. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere have performed consistently over the years, and are now important members of Roy Hodgson's squad, at least when they're fit. However, Josh McEachran, Connor Wickham and Jack Rodwell are yet to really kick on and realise their potential, with the latter closest to the England squad despite his woes at Manchester City.
We're here once again, with Ross Barkley turning in a number of excellent performances for Everton this season, and the 19-year-old finds himself part of Hodgson's squad for vital qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland in the coming week.
His inclusion is certainly warranted, but with one particular school of thought suggesting that England's young players should cut their teeth in the Under 21's – Barkley has just five caps for Gareth Southgate's men – is it too soon to rely on the Everton midfielder?
It's unlikely that Barkley takes the field during the two games, with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, James Milner and Jack Wilshere all part of Hodgson's squad, meaning he'll likely be sat on the bench rather than playing for the Under 21's. Being around more experienced players in training could aid his development, and in the future it's exciting to imagine Barkley partnering Wilshere in the England midfield, both displaying energy and technical ability.
The Hodgson era has seen England try to cap players who are eligible for other countries, such as Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha, and with Barkley eligible for Nigeria, they managed to get him a competitive fixture against Moldova last month, preventing him from representing any other country, so we can now count on Barkley to be in the England picture, rather than worrying about his future – like many nations are over Adnan Januzaj.
England fans have every right to be excited about Barkley's current performances and his room for development, but fortunately, the England staff are handling his involvement correctly so far – allowing him some match time once games are won, and letting him enjoy his football with Everton without adding the pressure of being an England regular onto his young shoulders.
His short term impact may not be great, but in the long term, England have a legitimate driving force from midfield on their hands in Barkley - which will be music to the ears of fans who have been disgruntled with the recent dour offerings from Hodgson's England.
image: © geetarchurchy