Ross Barkley had the good fortune of playing alongside Frank Lampard when their careers were at very different stages, and now our current no.8 is relishing learning once again from the man who enjoyed such great success at Chelsea with that number on his back.
Lampard was the oldest member of England’s 2014 World Cup squad, turning 36 shortly before his final appearance for the national team, against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. Barkley, 15-and-a-half years his junior, was relatively new to the England set-up under Roy Hodgson. He featured in all three group games, starting in midfield next to Lampard against the Central American side.
‘He was a player I looked up to when I was growing up, and then I was lucky enough to play with him as well and take tips from him when we were with England together,’ Barkley, now 25, tells the official Chelsea website after another busy training session in Japan.
‘Now it’s great to have him as manager. He will pass things that used to work for him in games on to us. To have him back is brilliant for the players because of the experiences he has had over his career, and it’s going to be really exciting for the fans as well.’
After helping the Blues triumph in the Europa League final in Baku, Barkley headed off on England duty on the hunt for more silverware - and the perfect finish to an impressive 2018/19 campaign - in the UEFA Nations League. Unfortunately for him the Three Lions fell short, with only a tight VAR decision late on in normal time denying them victory in the semi-final against the Dutch.
‘To finish third for how well we performed leading up to it in big games was a bit frustrating because we believed we could win it,’ says Barkley.
‘In the first 75 against Holland we performed really well but then we died off and got a bit tired. It’s the end of season, sometimes it can be like that. In the third-place game we had loads of chances but nothing would go in the back of the net and we ended up winning on penalties.’
England were immaculate from 12 yards, including Barkley who produced a cheeky panenka to beat the Swiss keeper.
‘We had practised penalties all week leading up to the games, and I said to the goalkeeping coach if I took one I would chip it down the middle. He didn’t want me to but I was completely relaxed and stuck it away!’
Barkley reports he rested and recovered well afterwards, recharging his batteries before starting work under Lampard.
‘It’s been really good to be back together with all the boys,’ he smiles. ‘We are working hard. The training sessions have been really intense. We have been up and running with the new manager straight away and we have put in a lot of extra miles.
‘There’s only Christian [Pulisic] who needs to bed in, plus some of the young lads who will get a chance. There is so much talent in the squad. We have got a new manager, a legend of the club, and a new playing style, so it’s going to be an exciting season. We’re all thinking positively.’
And what of wearing eight in front of the greatest previous occupant of that number?
‘Of course he was a massive player to wear that number for Chelsea. I was no.8 at Everton too so when the club said it was available for me and I could take it, I thought why not?
‘It was great to take that number and hopefully there are many seasons ahead that I can score loads of goals.’