When Will Ross Barkley Return?
Eyes are beginning to start to roll in Aston Villa supporter heads when there’s an update on Ross Barkley’s return. Having been bitten before by the club’s news of player’s injury not exactly correlating to reality of their return, especially in recent cases involving John McGinn and Jack Grealish, all news on Barkley’s situation is now treated with scepticism.
The hamstring injury that Barkley picked up in the opening minutes of the home match against Brighton on 21st November wasn’t initially considered to be too serious. It was suggested he’d be back in three or so weeks, with the Burnley match on the 17th December, the most likely return date.
There was no sign of Barkley against the clarets. Fast-forward a few days to Villa’s trip to the Hawthorns and his name still failed to appear on the team sheet. When asked after the game for an update on the injury, Dean Smith suggested something about it being too cold to risk him against the Baggies.
“He certainly will be fit for Palace,” added Smith.
But on Boxing Day, Barkley was a no show once again.
Not being able to play against his parent team Chelsea, meant he’d be afforded extra-time off anyway, so surely he’d feature, when Villa needed him in the month of January, when they’d be playing a number of games against a better standard of opposition like Manchester United.
Again, the invisible man act struck again at Old Trafford, much to Villa supporters’ frustration.
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The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Having been certain that Barkley would start against Palace, after the United game, Smith stated Barkley wasn’t close to playing against United.
“He wasn’t near making the game (vs Manchester United),” admitted Smith. “He hasn’t had enough minutes on the training ground but I fully expect him to be ready for our next Premier League game (against Spurs on January 13th).”
Now in firm ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ territory, MOMS considers any appearance by Barkley in January as a bonus.
Joking aside, Smith did hint that he’d consider having Barkley on the bench for the forthcoming FA Cup against Liverpool, after questioning actually starting him in the game.
“I’m not sure if I’ll start him in the FA Cup game (against Liverpool),” pondered Smith. “He needs more minutes on the training ground.”
If it’s minutes Barkley’s needing, he’d have had an extra week’s training under his belt and would probably benefit from a 15-20 minute FA Cup cameo to regain his sharpness before the Spurs game.
The keeping the opposition guessing trick is one thing surrounding a player’s fitness (how many weeks/months does it work for?), but to publicly continually suggest a player is returning for what is four games now is poor communication to supporters, after making out the injury was initially routine.
A better managing of expectations could have been afforded to Villa supporters at the start, by saying he’d be unlikely to return until January, ala the sudden and surprise Trezeguet hamstring injury.
Hopefully, this time there’s truth in Barkley’s imminent return, as he’s missed more games than he’s played since arriving on loan, which considering the amount in wages Villa are dropping on him, will not shape up as good business the longer he’s absent.