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John Barnes

John Charles Bryan Barnes (born November 7, 1963 in Kingston, Jamaica) was a hugely successful and well known Jamaican-born English football player of the 1980s and 1990s with both Watford and Liverpool, and was once the manager of Celtic. He is considered by some as the most naturally gifted and skilful British player to have ever played the game. However, though Barnes scored one of the greatest ever goals wearing an England shirt, against Brazil in 1984, it is his failure at major international tournaments that has remained one of the major subjects of football debate. He was also unable to ply his trade in European club competition, while at his peak with Liverpool, due to the Heysel ban on all English clubs (mid 1980's to early 1990's).

Career

Having moved to England as a boy, Barnes was noticed by Watford whilst playing as a schoolboy for non-league Sudbury Court. After a successful game in Watford's reserves, Barnes was signed on the 14th July 1981 for the fee of a set of kit.

Barnes made his debut, at the tender age of 17, as a sub on the 5th September '81 in a 1-1 league draw with Oldham Athletic at Vicarage Road under manager and mentor Graham Taylor (who led the team through all four divisions).

Barnes and Watford gained promotion, as runners-up to fierce rivals Luton Town, to the top flight of English football at the end of the 1981/82 and went on to finish as runners-up for the League title, ironically, to Liverpool the following season. Watford then made the 1984 FA Cup final, where, as under-dogs, they were beaten 2-0 by Everton.

While featuring heavily in Watford's rise to prominence, which included a UEFA Cup campaign in 1983, Barnes' dazzling skills and electric pace on the left flank made him a hero with his adoring fans and were quickly spotted by England manager Bobby Robson, who gave him his debut on the 28th May 1983 putting him on as a second half replacement for club mate Luther Blissett as England drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland in a British Championship match at Windsor Park, Belfast.

The 10th June 1984 will always be a day to remember for Barnes, he scored one of the most breathtaking individual goals ever seen, when he outpaced and out-thought several Brazilian defenders before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball into an empty net during a friendly match at the famous Estádio do Maracană Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The goal brought him worldwide fame but also a sense of heavy expectation, with unreasonable observers and supporters expecting him to produce moments like that on a match-by-match basis.

Personal information
Full name John Charles Bryan Barnes
Date of birth November 7, 1963
Place of birth    Kingston, Jamaica
Nickname Digger, Barnsey
Playing position Midfielder
Youth clubs
  Sudbury Court
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
1981–87
1987–97
1997–99
1999
Watford
Liverpool
Newcastle United
Charlton Athletic
Total
233 0(65)
314 0(84)
027 00(6)
012 00(0)
586 (155)   
National team
1983–95 England 079 (12)
Teams managed
1999-2000 Celtic
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Indeed, Barnes' whole England career, despite its decade's longevity, was seen by many as a disappointment. England's most capped black player won 79 caps and scored 12 goals, but compared to his club form, he was never seen as a player who peaked when wearing an England shirt. Nevertheless, he remained in the top ten most capped players list for eleven years until David Beckham and then Gary Neville edged him out from ninth to 11th.

Robson did not use Barnes at the 1986 World Cup until the quarter final against Argentina when England were trailing 2-0 with 15 minutes to go. Barnes used his short period on the pitch to destroy the Argentine defence time and again (BBC commentator Barry Davies famously shouted: "Go on! Run at them!" when Barnes was given the ball), setting up one goal for Gary Lineker and laying on another chance which, despite seeming easier than the one he scored, thanks to some inspired Argentine defending Lineker conspired to miss. England went out of the competition, but Barnes' impact on the team and the country was felt.

A year later after appearing 292 times for the Hornets, scoring 83 goals, Barnes left Watford on the 9th June 1987 in a Ł900,000 deal for Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool, joining at the same time as England team-mate Peter Beardsley and linking up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush to form one of the most formidable attacking lines of Liverpool's illustrious history. Barnes made his debut for the Reds, along with Beardsley, on the 15th August '87 in the 2-1 league win over Arsenal at Highbury, it took just 9 minutes for Barnes and Beardsley to show just what was in store for the Anfield faithful, as they combined to set up Aldridge for an excellent team goal. Barnes' first strike for the club came a month later on the 12th September as the Reds beat Oxford United 2-0 at Anfield, Aldridge had aldready scored against his former employers in the 13th minutes before Barnes scored in the 37th minute to make the game safe.

In his first season at Anfield, Barnes was outstanding as Liverpool coasted to the League title, remaining undeafeated for the first 29 games of the season and ending up with just two defeats, though again he would suffer FA Cup disappointment when Wimbledon surprisingly beat the champions 1-0 in the final. Barnes had performed a memorable (not necessarily for the right reasons) rap on the club's traditional Cup final song Anfield Rap, which got to No.3 in the UK charts.

Barnes, like everyone else at Anfield, was given a nickname, what with Dallas being one of the leading TV programmes of the time and one of the characters names being Digger Barnes, it was an easy call to give him the nickname 'Digger,' this has stuck with him and is also how the Liverpool fans affectionately refer to him.

The success and disappointment of the '87/88 season were reversed a year later, with Liverpool winning the FA Cup with a 3-2 defeat over Merseyside rivals Everton, with Barnes instrumental during the extra time period, but losing the title to Arsenal with literally seconds remaining.

Barnes was, in his early years at Liverpool, having to deal with racist abuse from opposing supporters and far-right groups — a famous photograph was once taken of Barnes, in full Liverpool kit and mid-match, casually backheeling away a banana which had been hurled at him. In his early England days, he and fellow black player Mark Chamberlain were subjected to threats from racist groups. Notably, Barnes was abused by supporters of the National Front on the plane back from South America in June 1984; the racists claimed that England had only won 1-0 against Brazil because Barnes' wonder goal "didn't count".

Barnes played in the 1990 title winning side at Liverpool and scored an amzing 22 league goals from the left wing. Liverpool striking legend, and colleague, Ian Rush also had a great season but managed 4 fewer league goals than Barnes, putting into a larger context just how prolific and important Barnes was to Liverpool at the time. He then appeared in the World Cup for England. He sustained a groin injury against Belgium shortly after having a magnificent volleyed goal wrongly disallowed for offside. England went out to West Germany on penalties in the semi-final. Barnes had again supplied a rap for a tie-in song, "World In Motion" by New Order, which was a UK No.1 and is still regarded by many as the best football song ever made.

Barnes continued to play for Liverpool and England, and started the 1990-91 season is scintillating form, despite frequent barracking from opposition fans who were frustrated with his lack of product in an England shirt. His response was frightening though as the likes of Aston Villa, Manchester United, Wimbledon FC and Leeds United found out as Barnes scored spectaular goal after goal for the Liverpool cause. The resignation of the legendary Dalglish however was a blow that Liverpool did not recover from for more than a decade. The great club suffered a demise as Manchester United supplanted Liverpool as the dominant English team, and it was more than coincidence that Barnes' own demise can be traced back to this point. He did however win the FA Cup again in 1992 despite missing the final with an achilles injury. Around this time, he was booed by a section of England supporters at Wembley after a poor performance by the whole team - somehow, Barnes' own perceived underachievement throughout his international career was seen as a symbol for England's own ineptitude as a team that evening. It was also this pre-season (in 1992) where constant injuries would eventually take their toll and rob Barnes of the lightnining acceleration and pace that was once his hallmark.

By the mid-1990s, Barnes knew he was facing the end of his playing career and looked to make up for the underachievment at International level with his club side. He publicly stated that he would stay at Liverpool and nurture promising young talent that needed his leadership instead of leaving the club as it went through turbulent years under Graeme Souness, before Roy Evans took over at the helm in 1994. Under Evans, Barnes and his young proteges like his favoured successor, Steve McManaman, fellow central midfielder Jamie Redknapp and striker Robbie Fowler won the League Cup with Liverpool in 1995. Barnes had now been converted into a holding midfielder where he, Redknapp and McManaman would pass their way through teams and set up countless goals for the likes of Fowler. However, it is probable that a lack of a tough-tackling central midfielder at this time prevented Liverpool from ever winning the league championship under Evans, and it is probable that Evans (formerly Kenny Dalglish's number 2) had stayed loyal to a fault - to the ageing Barnes.

After 12 years of international recognition Barnes won the last of his 79 caps on the 6th September 1995 in the memorable 0-0 friendly draw with Colombia at, fittingly, Wembley. The goalless friendly will always be remembered because of the eccentric Colombian goalkeepers, Rene Higuita, 'Scorpion Kick.'

He managed one more FA Cup runners-up medal before narrowly losing out on the FA Premiership title to Manchester United a year later in 1997. On the 13th August that same year, after 407 appearances and 108 goals, Barnes decided it was time to leave Anfield and joined up with former boss Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle United. He reached yet another FA Cup final (defeated again) during his short period at St James' Park Barnes made 41 appearances and scored 7 times before ending his playing career at Charlton Athletic where he played just 12 times starting twice.

Barnes had racked up an impressive 752 appearances, for 4 clubs, scoring 198 goals before, in a 'dream ticket' style move, he then became coach of Celtic with Kenny Dalglish as director of football, but this much-hyped appointment was disappointing, and Barnes was sacked as a result. He has since become a pundit on ITV and is currently a presenter of the football coverage on five as well as having his own weekly football discussion show, John Barnes' Football Night, every Friday on the same channel. He also works as an ambassador for Save the Children.

Twice in his career, Barnes was voted Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year. He has also won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and is widely regarded as among the most talented players to wear an England shirt. Barnes was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game. He is separated and has two sons and two daughters.

The Liverpool fans adoration for Digger was emphasised when he finished in the top 5 of the poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop which was conducted by the official Liverpool Football Club web site in the summer of 2006. More than 110,000 supporters worldwide voted for their 10 favourite players of all time, Barnes finished 5th behind Robbie Fowler (4th), Ian Rush (3rd), Steven Gerrard (2nd) and the man that signed him twice Kenny Dalglish (1st).

Career Honours

Honours As Player

Watford

Runner Up

  • 1981/82 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1982/83 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1983/84 FA Cup

Liverpool

Winner

  • 1987/88 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1988/89 Charity Shield
  • 1988/89 FA Cup
  • 1989/90 Charity Shield
  • 1989/90 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1990/91 Charity Shield Shared
  • 1994/95 League Cup

Runner Up

  • 1987/88 FA Cup
  • 1988/89 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1990/91 League Championship (Level 1)
  • 1995/96 FA Cup

We love you Digger!!!

Newcastle United

Runner Up

  • 1997/98 FA Cup

England

  • 1983/1995 79 caps 12 goals

Individual

  • Inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, 2005
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
1988
PFA Players' Player of the Year
1988
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
1990
Celtic F.C. manager
1999-2000

Trivia

  • Barnes appeared on the 1990 England World Cup theme song World in Motion by New Order. The track is often mistitled "The John Barnes Rap", after the rap performed by Barnes towards the end of the track.
  • A film about Barnes' career was made in 1998, broadcast on BBC's The A - Force, it was produced and directed by Pogus Caesar a respected producer and director of multi cultural TV programmes.
  • Barnes visited Tanzania in January 2007 and played for youth side in Dar es salaam against other local clubs. He was together with other football legends Les Ferdinand and Warren Barton.

Football fans in this East African country were extremely happy to have Barnes and company as the guests.

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