It was the Chelsea win at home to today’s opponents Newcastle back in October that pressed the pause on Ross Barkley’s season when he had to come off just before half-time.
It proved to be a prolonged period out for the midfielder with a foot injury but he returned this month and has completed the whole of the last two games, both wins, and he scored in the first of those, the FA Cup game against Nottingham Forest. He also earned praise for his follow-up performance against Burnley in the Premier League.
Frank Lampard welcomes having the England international back as one of his options and performing to a high level as well.
‘It is good news for us,’ says the boss.
‘There have been a couple of issues this year with Ross. He knows that and we know that and his training in the last month particularly has been absolutely focused.
‘He has been doing extra work and the injury he had was a really niggly injury which was difficult for him because he was one foot in training and one foot out. He was training at a certain per cent to try to show that he was there but you could see clearly he wasn’t, and I respected that, he was trying.
‘Now that has cleared up and he is working hard and showing his qualities, particularly against Burnley, and that is great news for all of us.’
During the season there have been a couple of newspaper stories with Barkley pictured during time off away from the club, one involving a bag of chips back in his home city of Liverpool and the other during a break in Dubai. The player soon after his return to playing action this month spoke about those and how he now appreciates the need to think constantly about his behaviour and professionalism in an era when so many people are keen to capture moments on smartphones.
‘I read what Ross said and the first side of it is you should always look at yourself, and I would say that about myself when I got it wrong,’ reckons Lampard.
‘Look at yourself and don’t mention anything else because society and members of the public you can’t control. The second side of it I agree with him, there are too many smartphones but that is the second part of the argument because we are all so aware that there are a lot of smartphones. It means you have to change your way of living and how much you trust the people you are around.
‘That is the way the world has gone so you still come back to yourself and make sure firstly that you act professionally and secondly, be aware of those things because you can’t control the fact the world has changed.’
Lampard explains that it was not the fact chips were involved in one of the incidents that was an issue for him but the fact there was training the next day.
‘I am not one to tell my lads don’t have a bag of chips, don’t have a few beers after you win a game but make sure when you look at the big scheme you do it with the idea that you have to train and perform at a level.
‘As the game has moved forward, and the speed and intensity of it is even more so than my day, the players have to be tip-top or this game will find you out. That is not something just for Ross, that is something for all the players about how they live their lives.
‘We had a couple of in-house chats around those things and as I said at the time [of the stories], I really like Ross and also in my career I had moments when I did things that I slightly regretted. It is what you do to get out of them on the other side that is really important and Ross’s reaction in the last month has been spot on.
‘Ross is a driven boy. He got into the first team at Everton at a young age, he got into the international team at a relatively young age, so people maybe gauge him slightly differently.
‘If you have little knocks or moments in your career then it is important you show character and he is certainly showing that in terms of how he is around the place. I always believe how you train relates to how you play and in the last two games he has played he has shown that.’
Yesterday Lampard downplayed stories suggesting Barkley could go out on loan this month and he follows that up by making it clear he wants to be on the training pitch with the 26-year-old.
‘There is a lot of talent in Ross and as a coach, I want to maximise that for the best for us and for him.’
Ahead of the game at Newcastle today, Lampard has also given a fitness update on N’Golo Kante who missed last weekend’s action due to a hamstring concern.
‘He has had a few issue through the week and it is a decision I have to make with absolute certainty, but at the minute it looks like he is good to go,’ is Lampard’s assessment.