Ross Barkley won’t forget this week in a hurry. After getting an England recall on Thursday, the midfielder netted his maiden Chelsea goal at St Mary’s yesterday, and he believes the hard work he has put in recently is paying off.
Injuries hampered his start to life at Stamford Bridge after signing from Everton in January, but with a full pre-season behind him the 24-year-old has flourished under Maurizio Sarri. At Southampton he recorded a fine assist before opening his Blues account.
‘It was a fantastic result for us, and not only that, for me to get my first goal was fantastic,’ Barkley said of the 3-0 South Coast success.
‘I feel like I have been at a high level for a couple of years, but it’s just about producing performances on game day. Last season I had a difficult time with injuries, but on the training pitch I have felt strong and confident and I have built on that.
‘As the season goes on I am sure I’ll continue to improve and show people what I am capable of.’
Barkley did just that at St Mary’s, something Sarri ackowledged after the game. It was Barkley who won the ball back before finding Eden Hazard to open the scoring, and it was he who then doubled our lead with a close-range finish after the break.
The victory was our sixth in eight league games so far this season and leaves us level on points with Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table. The no.8 says a title challenge is possible.
‘We are right in there. We have got the players who have achieved that success before, and we believe we are capable of doing that.
‘We’re getting used to the way the manager wants us to play and we’ll continue to improve. We are taking each month as it comes, setting our targets, and hopefully at the end of the season we will get trophies.’
If we are to do that Hazard will be a key reason why. Barkley holds his Belgian team-mate in the highest regard.
‘He’s an electric player. He is capable of producing magic on the pitch at any moment. He’s fantastic to play with, and he makes everyone else around him better. There are not many players in the world who are capable of doing that, fair play to him.
He’s a great character around the place and he’s a great person as well. It’s a pleasure to play with him.
— Ross Barkley on Eden Hazard
There is a break for international football now, and for the first time since March 2017 Barkley will be involved with England after getting the nod from Gareth Southgate in midweek. The man who already has 22 international caps to his name can’t wait to be involved again.
‘It means the world to me. There’s no better feeling than playing for your country. I am going to keep working hard and the rewards will come.’