SHEFFIELD United are poised to come face to face with Everton’s latest ‘wonder kid’.
David Moyes, the Premiership club’s manager, spent yesterday deciding whether to plunge Ross Barkley, who made his professional debut against QPR at the weekend, into battle during tonight’s Carling Cup second round tie.
With the 17-year-old already being tipped to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell, Moyes could be forgiven for refusing to pick him against lower-league opposition in cup combat.
But Phil Neville, the Everton captain, insisted Barkley has the strength of character to cope with whatever the game throws at him.
“People say bravery is going around kicking people and getting stuck in,” said Neville.
“Bravery is taking the ball when you are under pressure, when you are 1-0 down at home and the crowd is on your back.
“He did that.
“His performance was the only real plus to come out of that game for us.”
With Everton beset by financial problems, being beaten by Neil Warnock’s side increased the air of despondency surrounding Goodison Park.
Chairman Bill Kenwright admitted before the match that the club’s debts at the end of May 2010 totalled £44.9 million with the promise of no new investment forthcoming.
Kenwright also revealed that the £3m Everton received when Stephen Pienaar joined Spurs and the £9m raised following the sale of their Bellefield training complex had also gone directly to the bank.
Nevertheless, Neville believes Barkley’s emergence points to a bright future on the pitch.
“Ross has been outstanding all pre-season and I think we all know that we’ve got something special there,” he said.
“Ross is a great lad and is always asking questions.”
Meanwhile, United will hold an “Evening with Chris Morgan” ahead of October’s derby with Sheffield Wednesday.
The event, which takes place in the 1889 Restaurant at Bramall Lane, includes a three-course meal and question and answer session with the centre-half and first-team coach.
Tickets, available from the box office, are £45 per person or £340 for a table of eight.