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STEVEN PIENAAR insists it is up to Ross Barkley to justify the hype which surrounded the youngster’s early Everton FC career.
And the South African says the teenager – who scored a fine strike for Everton’s U-21 side on Monday – must look within himself to do so.
Barkley is back at Everton after a brief and frustrating loan spell at Leeds United, while David Moyes ponders whether to send him back out to the Championship or keep him at Goodison for the rest of the season.
Pienaar hopes the England U-21 international is able to stay on Merseyside and get a further taste for first-team football as the Blues’ small squad bids for both Premier League and FA Cup success.
He said: “I’ve always had a word with Ross and I still believe he’ll be one of the best players in a few years time if he pushes himself. It’s all up to himself.
“He has the ability but we can’t just keep on praising him, he has to do it himself.
“He’s young and I think now that he’s back we might need him in the next couple of months because we’ll need everyone at the moment and maybe he’ll get his chance to play.”
Barkley has made just three Premier League appearances for the Blues so far this term, although he has featured in 13 games for Sheffield Wednesday and four while at Elland Road.
His spell at Neil Warnock’s side was ruined by being dropped and played out of position, but since returning Barkley has been playing regularly for Alan Stubbs’ second string and enjoying life back at Finch Farm.
Everton are currently top of Group One in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League, with only the side finishing top able to continue into the play-offs at the end of the campaign. Their fourth win in five games on Monday stretched the gap between second-placed Chelsea to four points, and Stubbs admitted Barkley’s impressive intervention was timely.
“Ross’ goal was the lifeline we needed,” he said. “It was one of those nights where nothing really went for us. Our passing was sloppy at times and we didn’t win enough second balls. It was nearly a ‘nearly’ night for us so how we’ve won the game, I don’t know. That’s football – it’s a strange and cruel game at times.”
EVERTON FC could be facing an under-strength Wigan side as they bid to reach Wembley on Saturday.
The Blues host Roberto Martinez’s Latics in the quarter-final of the FA Cup at Goodison, and the Spaniard has admitted he may change his usual first team to preserve his most experienced players for their Premier League relegation struggle.
Martinez has made significant changes in previous FA Cup rounds, and after his side were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool at the DW Stadium on Saturday he is more inclined to rotate his personnel again for the cup tie.
“Success in the Cup is something we want, but never at the price that it would affect our league campaign,” he said ahead of Saturday lunchtime's tie.
“That's something I will never allow to happen. Our situation is a dangerous one and the position we are in after losing to Liverpool means we need to find the best possible team to carry on playing in the league.”
In the fifth round Martinez's selection decision was a success as his side dispatched Huddersfield 4-1. But he recognises that Everton will be an altogether sterner test.
“The Cup game will give us the opportunity to make changes,” he added. “Not to rest people, but maybe to find people who deserve to be in the team and to develop real competition.
“Those who have played in the Cup deserve an opportunity and need to show what they can do against Premier League opposition.”
Blues fans are urged to get their tickets early ahead of this Saturday’s game.
With Wembley in sight, tickets have been selling fast since they went on sale to season ticket holders last Thursday and lengthy queues formed at Goodison Park this weekend when the tickets went on general sale.
Everton officials are encouraging supporters to act quickly to secure their seat for the match, which kicks off at 12.45pm.
Prices start from £31 for adults and half-price for juniors for the FA Cup quarter-final and all 2012/13 season ticket holders purchasing their ticket prior to matchday will receive a £5 discount.
Visit the Goodison Park Box Office, call 0871 663 1878 or visit evertonfc.com/eticketing. Alternatively you can buy your ticket from the Liverpool city centre ticket outlets at Everton Two or the TicketQuarter in Queen Square.