Everton manager David Moyes is confident he can keep his latest teenage prodigy Ross Barkley out of the clutches of bigger clubs, in a way he could not with Wayne Rooney.
The Goodison club's academy has produced a succession of talent for the first team over the past few years and Barkley, at just 17, is the latest. Comparisons with Rooney, who made his debut at 16, are obvious and while the England international had only two seasons in the first team before Manchester United came in with a huge bid, Moyes is optimistic history will not repeat itself.
"Every club will want Ross Barkley because Ross Barkley is going to be an outstanding player," said the Scot. "At the moment the only thing you've got to remember is that Ross hasn't played for us in two years.
"If someone comes for Ross I've always said it, it's expensive to buy off Everton in the main. If you're going to come and try to take our better players we don't sell cheap, that's for sure. I'm sure the bigger clubs will be looking at him, but we've no intention of selling him."
Moyes feels the club are in a much stronger position now with Barkley, who made his debut to rave reviews against QPR in August, than they were seven years ago with Rooney. "I think we've got the team to carry Ross. The club is in a much better position," Moyes said. "You can at least say Everton are finishing in the top 10, whereas I think prior to that it hadn't been a regular thing for Everton to be in the top 10 really. I think now there's a level of expectancy where most people would expect us to finish near Europe, and we've been in Europe quite a lot.
"Can we carry someone like Ross now? Of course we can, maybe when we had Wayne I don't think we could hang on to someone of that talent at that period."
While Moyes is keen to retain his talented youngster, the club's newest signing, James McFadden, who has returned after three years at Birmingham, is looking forward to resuming his Everton career. McFadden admits there was a point when he feared his career would be ended prematurely by the knee injury he suffered earlier this year. The Scotland international played his first match in 13 months when he had 45 minutes for Everton reserves against Sunderland yesterday.
The situation had looked much bleaker towards the end of last season when he broke down in his rehabilitation from surgery on a cruciate knee ligament injury. Following Birmingham's relegation from the Premier League they decided not to extend his contract and McFadden was left to consider his future.
"I was training in March and then broke down again and when I spoke to the surgeon he said my time might be up. That was hard to take," said the 28-year-old. "Birmingham had a two-year option on me but decided not to take it, which was fair enough. It was hard that I didn't know when I was going to get back playing. I think you have to take every day as it comes. It was one of those where the specialist kept saying, 'Come back and see me and we will see where you are every month or so.' Thankfully every time I went back there was improvement and he was happy enough for me to return to training.
"It has worked out for the best. I'll just move on now and try to be fit and ready to play games."
McFadden's last match was in September 2010 and he admits being sidelined for so long was tough. "It was really hard mentally trying to come to terms with not even playing in the foreseeable future," he added. "I didn't watch a lot of football last year because of it, but I knuckled down and worked hard on my rehabilitation.
"Hopefully in the next couple of months I'll see the benefits of the hard work I have put in in the gym in the last 13 months. It has been a hard year but it is funny when you are the end of that year it doesn't seem that long."
The Scot returns to the club three years after leaving in a £5m transfer to Birmingham in the search for regular first-team football. He had offers from Wolves and Celtic but opted to return to a place he was familiar with.
"There were a couple of offers but there was some messing about and Everton came in and made a proper offer," he said. "It is like coming home. I know the place, the staff and the players. I came here when I was just a kid. I started to grow here and I went on to try to better myself and play consistently in the Premier League. Hopefully I've come back a better player."
McFadden does not feel he has a point to prove to anyone, either inside or outside the club, in his second spell at Goodison Park.
"The manager asked me to come in and help because they were short on numbers and if that was not the case maybe this wouldn't be happening," he added. "It is up to me to grab the chance, show a bit of faith in the manager and show the fans I am good enough to play for Everton again. I am coming here to get fit, get playing and try to enjoy my football."Reuse content