Ashley Williams sees Ross Barkley as vital part of Everton team
If Ross Barkley was in any doubt as to how much he is valued at Everton, team-mate Ashley Williams believes this weekend left him in no doubt.
The 23-year-old midfielder endured a difficult few days after being allegedly punched on a night out and then becoming inadvertently embroiled in the row which saw The Sun newspaper banned from the club after derogatory comments about him by columnist Kelvin MacKenzie.
On top of his contract saga, with manager Ronald Koeman insisting he will have to be sold if he does not extend his existing 12 months left, that could have affected both the player and the fans.
However, a banner depicting the Liverpool-born academy graduate was unfurled in the Gwladys Street end before kick-off, and later in the afternoon the midfielder found himself in that very same stand with the fans as he celebrated his part in Everton's decisive second goal in the 3-1 win over Burnley.
"I'm sure he knows how much he is valued at Everton and that's not something I would get involved with to be honest," said Williams.
"That's his own business with the club, but he knows Everton love him and as players we appreciate how good he is, and what will be will be really.
"I heard (the reception he got) before the game and that was nice.
He's had a bit of a week with his name being in the paper - which is never nice - and there was a really good reception for him and he handled his business well.
"He trained every day, there were no issues, and you wouldn't know anything was going on.
"It has been one of those seasons where it seems we have been talking about him all the time and I think he's done really well.
"It is my first season with him so I didn't know what he had done before in terms of how he works and stuff, but I've been really impressed.
"I've not heard him coming out and saying anything. He's just got his head down and his form has been brilliant for as long as I can remember.
"He is an important player for us and I think he understands that, and the way he has been playing in games he now understands we need him to win games and he steps up."
Koeman has been one of Barkley's harshest critics this season but he has been pleased with the way the England international has responded.
"He will learn from football seasons: how he did last season, how he's doing this season," said the Dutchman.
"Of course in the beginning it was a difficult season as we changed the position of Ross, but I think it is much better for the boy to give creativity to the team.
"A local boy will most of the time get more criticism than any other player in the team and that is sometimes difficult for him.
"Even he got criticism from the manager but that's football. If I am not happy I don't listen to the name, it is a player in the team and that's the way I like to work with everyone."