sport

Martinez warns over Barkley

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has warned against burdening Ross Barkley with too much expectation at the World Cup this summer.

The 20-year-old has been tipped as a possible match-winner for England in the Brazil showpiece, and many leading experts have compared Barkley to the likes of Paul Gascoigne.

But Martinez fears the youngster needs to continue his development without being paraded as England's next major star.

"You can never get an experience like playing in a World Cup too soon if you are ready and Ross is ready," Martinez said.

"What is important is, as a nation, we have a responsibility to look after a young man who goes to the World Cup with the only intention of helping England be as good as they can.

"He is still young and we have to protect him. If we protect him well we are talking about a potential world-class talent.

"But it is down to us to allow him time and a little bit of a path to fulfil his potential with England.

"We shouldn't expect Ross Barkley, at the age of 20, to go into a World Cup and be someone who has to win games single-handedly. That would be very wrong."

Barkley is one of a number of youngsters in Roy Hodgson's squad alongside Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, 18, Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling, 19, and 20-year-old Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But Martinez added: "My message to every English fan and supporter in general is that we should embrace the younger generation - and it is phenomenal to have that - who have been called up by the England manager.

"But we have to understand we carry a responsibility of allowing the young players to have a positive experience, whatever that is.

"Then we can allow them to grow and put them in a position where they have (played) 300 to 400 games and can then be tested and pushed to see if they can win a World Cup.

"At the moment it is making sure they are protected in their environment, are allowed to enjoy their football and whatever they bring to the occasion is going to be a great learning curve for the future.

"Like any job in any line of work you are better by the experience you get and it is having the opportunity to make mistakes and grow and just become better out of that.

"Whatever they bring to this World Cup is a bonus. We should be looking further ahead to see the results of these youngsters.

"Experience in a World Cup has to be a positive one whatever the results are.

"But it is something we do quite often - we build the expectations and then lose the opportunity of fulfilling that potential and having a special player for the future.

"We are not the only ones, there are many nations who build expectations so quickly and then put them on young shoulders and that is unfair.

"There is not a written rule of what you should do. You should allow them to enjoy the experience, whatever it is, and then set the next target for them and continually evaluate them and give them an area to improve and focus on."