Thursday 23 November 2017

Barkley makes his point in contract battle

Everton 1 Watford 0

Watford's Daryl Janmaat in action with Everton's Enner Valencia.
Watford's Daryl Janmaat in action with Everton's Enner Valencia.

Chris Bascombe

History will record Ross Barkley's winner as either a Goodison farewell gift or the beginning of a truce.

The Everton midfielder faced Watford having been ordered to sign a new deal or go. As he slid in front of the Gwladys Street Stand in celebration, he did not resemble a player with his heart and mind elsewhere.

Those affording him a generous ovation when he was substituted 12 minutes from the end of the 1-0 victory did not think they were saying goodbye.

With the greatest respect to Watford - and even Arsenal on the final day - the most absorbing fixture left for Everton this season is the blinking contest between Ronald Koeman, Barkley, and Barkley's agent Paul Martin.

Everton's Ross Barkley celebrates scoring his side's goal at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA
Everton's Ross Barkley celebrates scoring his side's goal at Goodison Park. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

The Dutchman is not shy of picking a fight, his ultimatum issued to Barkley before the last home game of the season making this a potentially uncomfortable evening for the playmaker.

But the fans seemed to be on the player's side. Barkley began well, unlucky not to open the scoring on six minutes, Heurelho Gomes shoving away his side-foot effort.

Watford were more ambitious than of late, with Stefano Okaka's considerable presence causing a tremor each time he ran at Phil Jagielka.

Everton were struggling to get beyond Watford's three centre-halves, though Kevin Mirallas responded enthusiastically to the new three-year contract he signed before kick-off.

The most raucous ovation of the first half was reserved for injury victim Seamus Coleman as he appeared in the directors' box.

Troy Deeney missed a chance to give the visitors a 53th-minute lead, and Barkley punished them, running at the opposition before picking his spot to Gomes's right.

This was just his fifth goal in 35 league appearances this season. Dele Alli has 17, so it is not entirely clear where Barkley would fit into the Spurs side if that is his intention.

For those querying the depth of his contribution, Barkley offered a response. Koeman and Everton now await the answer to a different question. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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