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Barkley deal another sign Everton are heading in the right direction

Chris Brunskill

It seemed fitting that Ross Barkley mentioned Wayne Rooney as one of his idols upon signing a new long-term contract at Goodison Park.

Rooney was the last great hope to emerge from Everton's academy prior to Barkley's graduation, but his Goodison career was all too brief.

He followed a similar path to Barkley, a boy-wonder in Everton's youth sides before bursting onto the Premier League scene and becoming an England international just as quickly.

Sadly for Evertonians by the time Rooney has starred for England at Euro 2004 he felt his time at the club was up, with Manchester United shelling out £24million on transfer deadline day.

Back then Everton had just finished 17th in the Premier League, were heavily in debt and in the midst of a boardroom tussle that threatened to destabilise the whole club.

Rooney - and his advisers - felt he should get out and quick, allowing him to play at a higher level while also easing Everton's creaking finances.

Some of Everton's Premier League rivals probably felt they could use that same approach with Barkley, as it would be naive to think that his Evertonian roots are the only reason he decided to stay (though it undoubtedly helped).

Rooney's departure shows that being a boyhood fan does not mean a player will hang around if the conditions are not right, especially with ruthless agents bending their ear with talk of huge pay rises.

However, Everton are in a very different place nowadays than they were in 2004.

The new TV deal has eased some of the debt (even if they are not completely out of the woods) and they have a talented, attacking team led by a progressive, forward thinking manager.

The club is almost unrecognisable from those dark days in '04 and news of this contract - coming on the back of new deals for Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman - show that Everton is a place where players believe they can fulfil their ambitions.

All of which bodes very well for the future.

Speaking of his new deal, Barkley said:

"As soon as I got told about it, I knew I was going to sign.  It means everything, signing the new contract. It is a dream to have been playing for Everton all my life and today is a great thing for me.

"I am settled in at Everton, this is the Club I love. I see it as my home, I never think of anything away from Goodison.

"Putting pen-to-paper is great and now I want to focus on doing everything right on the pitch and that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things here.

“I knew what it meant to me when Rooney left because he was one of the better players at the time. We thought Everton could’ve pushed on at the time but when he left we were all down. I know how the fans felt and I just wanted to sign and push on for Everton.

It’s sending out that we are hoping to push on and win silverware. We’ve got keep good players at the club which we have with Bainesy (Leighton Baines) signing his new contract last year and Seamus (Coleman) and a few others signing new contracts.

“It shows we want to push on and not stand still.”