MIAMI (AP) — It's the eagerness to pin the nation's World Cup hopes on one player that irritates England coach Roy Hodgson so much.
No sooner had the focus in Miami switched from Wayne Rooney's scoring struggles than Hodgson grew frustrated at what he perceived as a fixation on another product of Everton.
"There always seems to be an enormous obsession with one player," Hodgson said at England's pre-World Cup base. "I'm not prepared to address your obsession with Ross Barkley."
Such is the 20-year-old prodigy's raw talent, youthful energy, and fearlessness that he has already been cast as the player who can lift the England team to another level in Brazil.
The midfielder clearly isn't lacking in self-belief, surrounded by established Premier League players.
"He's rather hoping he can get in the starting XI and be the main man," Hodgson said. "He has wonderful pace and ball control."
As fans saw on Wednesday when Barkley accelerated through the Ecuador defense in the humidity of Miami before laying the ball off for Rickie Lambert to score in the 2-2 draw. But that was only Barkley's first international start in England's penultimate World Cup warmup.
"He's only going to get better," midfielder Frank Lampard said. "That's his first start so considering that when you look at him and what he's done, he's made the second goal and shown enough there that we can say that he deserves his place in the squad and he's a great addition."
It's little wonder that Barkley is already compared to Rooney, who announced himself onto the international stage with four goals as an 18-year-old at the 2004 European Championship.
"I've been watching a lot of the Everton games and seeing what he has done there is great, having a young English lad coming through like that," said Rooney, who played for Barkley's team before joining Manchester United.
"Training with him and seeing him up close is great. He has got so much talent and if he gets his chance, I am sure he will do fantastic and he can light this World Cup up."