Barkley fears hostile reception when reunited with Everton

Ross Barkley, ChelseaGetty

Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley is bracing himself for a hostile reception from Everton fans when he faces his former club for the first time on Sunday.

Barkley joined Everton at the age of 11 and went on to make more than 150 senior appearances for his boyhood club before joining Chelsea for £15 million ($20m) in January.

Toffees fans were left frustrated at the manner of Barkley’s departure as the midfielder refused to sign a new deal and entered the final six months of his contract, allowing Chelsea to secure a cut-price move.

Barkley concedes the way he left Goodison Park may result in a few jeers from the away crowd when he takes to the field at Stamford Bridge this weekend.

"I don't think it will be the best," he told Sky Sports when asked about what reception he would get. "There might be a few who might say a few good things.

"I achieved my dream of playing for Everton, from a young age I always dreamed of scoring for Everton. In my living room I always used to tell my mum 'one day I'll score for Everton' and when that happened it was unbelievable for me. I tried to achieve success there but sometimes these things happen in football.

"I'm not nervous, I'm excited to play against my former club and team-mates - I understand how some of them play, so that could be an advantage for me.

"On the day I might get a few nerves as it will feel a bit strange. I'm looking forward to catching up with some of the staff there who I used to get on really well with."

Ross Barkley, Everton

Barkley endured a difficult first six months at Stamford Bridge due to injury and loss of form, making just two starts and a further two substitute appearances for the Blues last term.

However, the 25-year-old has thrived under new Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri, making 15 appearances in all competitions and scoring three goals.

His performances even earned him a recall to the England squad, making his international comeback after a two-year absence against Croatia in the Nations League last month.

Barkley feels his revival this season has justified his decision to make the move from Merseyside to west London.

"Coming to Chelsea was a big challenge for me,” added Barkley.

"I was approaching 25 and I felt looking back I could have improved a lot more [at Everton].

"At Chelsea I knew I'd improve a lot quicker around better players, world-class players."

One noticeable difference to Barkley this season is the absence of tattoos down his left arm.

The midfielder got the tattoos when he was a youngster at Everton but has since had them removed, something he feels symbolises his greater maturity both on and off the field.

"I was very young when I got my tattoos," he said.

"I was 16 when I got my full sleeve - I rushed into it. Over the years I didn't really like having them. My mum told me at the time she wasn't sure about me getting them and that I rushed into them - and she still says that to this day. I've been getting them removed over the last couple of years.

"I'll be 25 in a couple of weeks. I feel like I've matured over the last couple of years, dealing with injuries and moving to Chelsea. I've had to push myself and I've really matured."