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Dean Smith's promise of England Euro 2021 inclusion to Ross Barkley is far from over.

Ross Barkley's chances of being selected by Gareth Southgate for England's 2021 European Championships squad have dwindled in the last couple of months, but Aston Villa manager Dean Smith's promise to Barkley is far from being broken.

Barkley's relationship with a close friend and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, without intentionally making John McGinn envious, was one of the main benefactors, besides first-team football.

Ross Barkley's record for England so far 33 appearances, six goals and five assists after making his debut in September 2013 under Roy Hodgson against Moldova. He hasn't made an appearance since 14th October 2019. In his last appearance, he produced a Match of the Match performance scoring two goals and contributing an assist when England beat Bulgaria 6-0 in a Euro 2020 Qualifying Match.

His debut on 4th October 2020 turned out to be an extraordinary one. The twenty-seven-year-old scored and played a quintessential role in Aston Villa's 7-2 victory over defending Premier League Champions Liverpool, with their first-choice back-four.

Against Premier League contenders Leicester City, he produced a Man of the Match performance scoring an injury-time winner entered into Match of the Day's October Goal of the Month competition. At the Emirates against Arsenal, another eye-catching display from Barkley followed provided an assist for Ollie Watkins in a 3-0 victory against last season's FA Cup winners.

Two goals and an assist in five appearances, England Manager Gareth Southgate must have had Ross Barkley written in his notebook.

The play-maker had become one of the first names on Dean Smith's Aston Villa team-sheet before suffering a hamstring injury in the early stages of the game against Brighton subsequently, missing Villa's next eight games in all competitions across 60 days.

Ross Barkley's two Premier League seasons at Chelsea in 2018/19 and 2019/20 amassed 79 appearances (4425 minutes), ten goals and 11 assists. Towards the end of the 2019/20 season, first-team football became a struggle resulting in not being in Chelsea's starting eleven for the first three games of the current Premier League season.

On Wednesday 20th January, he returned to Villa's first-team against Premier League leaders Manchester City. Against Southampton, he reminded Southgate why he should be included in England's Euro 2021 squad scoring the winning goal in another Match of the Match Performance.

In Aston Villa's return fixture against Arsenal on 6th February, his conduct became under scrutiny. Dean Smith's decision to substitute Barkley after 78 minutes wasn't taken well by the England International taking a swing at the expense of water bottles on the touchline. Understandably criticised by pundits and fans for his far from satisfactory conduct, prospectively noted by Southgate, footballers, like all human-being are allowed to have outbursts of frustration. Barkley's actions are the epitome of the passion he has for Aston Villa Football Club, the sport of football and his commitment to his teammates. Footballers, past and present, have done a lot worse when being substituted.

The arrival of French Under 21 international Morgan Sanson from Olympique Marseille for £14 million in the January transfer window had supporters of the club speculating on social media platforms was Sanson's arrival the hierarchy's choice of not making Barkley's move a permanent figure at the end of the season for a reported £40 million. If fans didn't deliberate rumours of prospective big-money transfers, you would be lying. £40m could effectively strengthen a squad. Conor Hourihane's loan to Championship contenders Swansea City was the most likely catalyst why Morgan Sanson half-way through the season. Cover for John McGinn in case of another injury. Nothing to do with Ross Barkley's prospective move in the summer.

The only constructive criticism of Ross Barkley is the lack of goals and assists compared to James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Jesse Lingard, whom can all play in Barkley's preferred position at Euro 2021 for England.

England's 2021 starting 11: Nick Pope, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Aaron Cresswell, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. 5-2-2-1.

Christopher Heath | Edited by The AVFC Faithful

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