By Alex Stevens
Jamie Carragher mocked Phil Neville on Monday Night Football for claiming Ross Barkley was on the pathway to greatness – before getting subbed at half-time during Everton’s win over Sunderland.
The English playmaker was selected as Ronald Koeman’s No10 for the Premier League clash at the Stadium of Light.
Neville, who also enjoyed a long spell at Goodison Park as a player, made it clear before kick-off on Sky Sports’ flagship football programme that Barkley was the man to watch on the pitch.
In fact, the 39-year-old – who has sung Barkley’s praises in the past – then went a step further by claiming the midfielder was on the path to greatness.
But Neville’s prediction fell horribly short as Barkley was hooked at half-time in favour of Gerard Deulofeu, and the Spaniard made an immediate impact as Romelu Lukaku’s hat-trick within 11 minutes secured a 3-0 win for the Toffees.
Neville didn’t escape lightly either, with co-pundit Carragher cheekily highlighting the bold claim in a tweet just minutes after Barkley’s substitution.
— Sky Sports MNF ⚽️ (@SkySportsMNF) September 12, 2016
Koeman revealed afterwards he hooked Barkley at half-time because he was guilty of losing possession too often.
With the score locked at 0-0, the Goodison manager tore into his players during the break for their lack of composure on the ball and made the surprise decision to replace the talisman.
Everton delivered a far improved showing in the second half, with Lukaku delivering the killer blows that secured a third consecutive league win for the visitors.
“I was really disappointed about our first 45 minutes,” Koeman told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme afterwards. “It was not the Everton I want to see.
“I said to the players I was really angry about our team. The problem was when we were in possession. In the midfield and up front we lost too many balls.
“Sometimes at half-time you need to make decisions and hope for a good reaction.
“The second half was what I like to see. We had good opportunities and good pressing, and could have scored more goals.”
Lukaku’s return to form will be a huge boost for Everton, who have accumulated an impressive 10 points from their opening four league matches, including three consecutive wins.
In other Everton news, this is how director of football Steve Walsh has already made a huge impact at Goodison Park.