There is a lot of talk that Sterling could start England’s opener against Italy in Menaus on Saturday given the injury picked up by Danny Welbeck, whilst Barkley’s impressive performances in the warm-up games have led to many calling for him to be part of Roy Hodgson’s starting XI.
However, Barnes’s comments in an interview with TalkSport seem to urge England to be cautious with their young talents and use them as impact subs.
He said: “I wouldn’t want to put too much pressure on them now by putting them into the cauldron in a tournament we aren’t going to win and if it doesn’t go well it could go against them.
“If you look at two players particularly in Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, they have only been playing club football, in the first team, for one year. To put them into a World Cup and have them carry the expectations of a nation on their shoulders, which they will if they play, I really wouldn’t want to do that.”
Barnes compared the situation to when Theo Walcott was taken to the 2006 World Cup in Germany as a 16-year-old. Walcott didn’t play a game at those finals under Sven Goran Eriksson but there was more expectation placed upon him to perform for his club when he was picked at such an early stage of his career than there perhaps would have been if he wasn't selected by England.
There is a difference in that Barkley and Sterling have been two of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season, and have both performed well in high pressure games.
Of course, they are still very young players and probably have a lot more to offer, and also need to be managed well Sterling aged 19, and Barkley aged 20. But if they are told to play their normal game, and play without fear, it could also be the making of them. Good players have to learn to handle pressure, and handling it from an early age could also benefit them in the long run.