Chelsea midfielder unfazed and inspired by taunts of Everton fans who once idolised him
The ire of former fans seldom amounts to much. Actually scrub that, because it usually achieves the exactly opposite of what is intended.
Ross Barkley was booed by Evertonians after his very first touch. He will not be forgiven for turning his back on the Merseysiders after eight years at the club to move to west London for £15m two years ago. But if they hoped to put him off his stride, they failed miserably.
Barkley was in excellent form in midweek against Liverpool, scoring a scintillating individual goal in the FA Cup triumph over Everton's city rivals. His run from half way and brilliant finish sealed an excellent win then for Frank Lampard's men.
So maybe this was just a continuation of fine form.
On the other hand, the midfielder seemed to go up a gear. Senses alert. An extra determination to pick up loose balls, make himself available and make telling bursts into enemy territory.
He was taking on responsibility and relishing it.
And there was his superb quick ball which released Pedro to make it 2-0 midway through the first half. It was a mark of increased confidence. Back to the sort of eye-catching contributions he used to make at Goodison Park when at his best.
Six minutes into the second half, his smart little pass with the outside of the boot offered up a clear target for Willian, who arrowed in goal number three.
The England misdielder seemed to be always involved and had a couple of shots at goal himself, forcing keeper Jordan Pickford into at least two saves.
Maybe it was the opposing fans who helped raise his game that extra five per cent or so. Maybe Everton were just plain bad, as they invariably are at the Bridge - no win here since 1994. Either way, he had a ball as Chelsea romped to a 4-0 win on Sunday.
“Ross Barkley, he left cos you're sh*t,” taunted the Matthew Harding faithful.
It has not always been this way for Barkley at the Bridge, of course. A late missed penalty in the early season defeat to Valencia in the Champions League seemed to sum up a player struggling to make his mark. There were rumblings in the stand.
It is fair to say that even now, of course, he is far from being viewed with the affection afforded the real superstars in a team. And but for injuries to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N'Golo Kante, he might not even be getting a game right now. But the 26-year-old is making the most of his latest opportunity to impress.
He made 55 appearances for the Blues last season, so it is not as if he is a forgotten man. And yet at times it feels like it, because so often he has been playing off the bench and never seemed like the go-to man under Maurizio Sarri.
Of his 73 appearances for the club so far, 27 of them have been as a substitute and he is seldom the main man in that midfield engine room.
But perhaps we are seeing the potential for a decent phase two of his career, a player who can also be a guide to younger players. He offered a reassuring pat to Faustino Anjorin after the youngster came on for his league debut and instantly skied high into the stand. Lampard must feel Barkley is a good man to have around right now.