Roy Hodgson gave Ross Barkley the best compliment a young England midfielder could wish for yesterday when he likened him to Paul Gascoigne.
After missing the last four games through injury, Barkley has returned to the England squad for the upcoming double-header against Slovenia and Scotland.
The 20-year-old midfielder – who has had loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United – worked his way into the England World Cup squad after a series of impressive displays for Everton towards the end of last season, and he is expected to play a big role in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Hodgson resisted calls to start Barkley in the opening two World Cup games and criticised the player for giving the ball away too much.
But Hodgson must have been impressed with Barkley’s play since because he sees flashes of Gascoigne in the young Liverpudlian.
“He’s got great potential as an impact player,” the England manager said.
“He’s a magnificent runner with the ball. In terms of being able to run with the ball with pace and power, you could compare him to Paul Gascoigne.
“Gascoigne was a powerful player, powerful runner with the ball, once he set off and went by people they didn’t catch him. Ross Barkley is the same.
“He’s a player with excellent technique and can score goals, he interprets the role behind the front player very well.”
Being likened to one of the most entertaining and gifted midfielders of all time is likely to give Barkley a lift. But it could also backfire, Hodgson admits.
“That was dangerous because now you will make all sorts of comparisons,” the England manager said with a smile. “I might be regretful that I ever mentioned Gascoigne’s name, but I will put my cards on the table.
“If you are an England player it means you are going to be under a lot more scrutiny.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez wants Hodgson to be careful with his star midfielder given that he has just come back from a 14-week knee injury lay-off.
And the former Fulham boss hinted the youngster is unlikely to play the entirety of next Saturday’s qualifier against Slovenia, or the friendly in Scotland three days later.
“Obviously we lost him through a long period of time through injury,” Hodgson said.
“We are pleased to have him back, he does give us that enormous possibility, and if he doesn’t start the game he is a player coming off the bench who can make a difference.”
Hodgson has hit out at the Football Association for allowing an NFL game to take place just days before England play Slovenia.
For the third time this year, Wembley will host an American Football game this Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Dallas Cowboys.
“I can’t pretend that is something that makes me leap for joy,” Hodgson said.
“If I was asked if it was a good thing or not, I would have to say not.”
Goalkeepers: Forster (Southampton), Foster (West Brom), Hart (Man City).
Defenders: Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Chambers (Arsenal), Clyne (Southampton), Gibbs (Arsenal), Jagielka (Everton), Shaw (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd).
Midfielders: Barkley (Everton), Carrick (Man Utd), Downing (West Ham), Henderson (Liverpool), Lallana (Liverpool), Milner (Man City), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Sterling (Liverpool), Townsend (Tottenham), Wilshere (Arsenal), Walcott (Arsenal).
Forwards: Lambert (Liverpool), Rooney (Man Utd), Welbeck (Arsenal), Berahino (West Brom).