More accolades for Jamaican-born British soccer legend John Barnes
Jamaica in the WorldWednesday, June 16, 2021
Yesterday, exactly 12 years to the day, trailblazing Jamaican-born footballer John Barnes ended his brief stint as coach of the Reggae Boyz, the national senior team, after what could be interpreted as a desire to give back to the country of his birth.
This month, Barnes who had Jamaican pulses racing while he played for England, is celebrating a big development off the field, which pays further homage to his contribution to English football, especially Liverpool Football Club.
Will Jennings, writing for Yahoo News, reported that Barnes, who racked up 79 caps for England between 1983 and 1995, has taken part in a new National Lottery-commissioned portrait series called 'Ticket To Your Happy Place'.
“The innovative series is shot by photographer Tom Oldham and celebrates all the places that make us happy, we love to visit and have missed over the past year,” Jennings said, adding: “Football-mad Barnes… crowned Wembley Stadium his favourite venue and loved re-emerging under the iconic old Arch.”
The portrait of Barnes, now 57, has been commissioned to celebrate The National Lottery Cinema Weekend from June 19-20, 2021 and before that The National Lottery Open Week from June 5-13 at Wembley, where the soccer artist said he's had many happy memories.
“One of my first memories was when I was a young boy growing up in Jamaica and watching the 1974 FA Cup Final, where Liverpool beat Newcastle,” Barnes was quoted as saying. “Nowadays, I like coming to Wembley by myself as I like to be in my own zone and savour the atmosphere – even though there's 90,000 other people around me!”
“I think what's amazing about Wembley is that it gives everybody, not just the elite football teams, the feeling of achievement and happiness when they come together.”
Liam Boylan, Wembley stadium director, added: “We're thrilled that John picked Wembley Stadium as his 'happy place' and to know that, like so many, he has such a strong affection for our iconic venue,” Yahoo News said.
“National Lottery funding was crucial to the building of Wembley Stadium, and this is our way of saying thank you to everyone who has bought a National Lottery ticket, helped us on our journey, and made a vital contribution to supporting good causes.”
The National Lottery Open Week gives special offers and free entry at participating venues during the period, while The National Lottery Cinema Weekend is giving out free cinema tickets at more than 500 cinemas across the UK – all as a thank you for the £30 million raised for good causes every week by The National Lottery players, said Yahoo News.
The legendary John Barnes was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and attended St George's College before he left for England at age 12 with his military dad who was a member of the British regiment. He is probably best known for his decade-long stint at Liverpool, from where he became a star of the England team.
He first came to world attention as a teenager, when he joined Watford FC at 17. While there, he made the England Under-21 team. Six years later he was signed to Liverpool which is said to have paid a handsome £900,000 for the left-winger.
In 10 years with the Anfield club, he made 407 appearances, scored 108 goals, and won four major trophies. Barnes earned 79 full international caps for England, which is said to be a record for a black English player at the time, scoring 12 goals.
Feeling an itch to give back to Jamaica, Barnes accepted the position as head coach of the Reggae Boyz, serving from November 1, 2008 – the 10th anniversary of Jamaica's participation in the France World Cup finals – to June 15, 2009.
Barnes' career with Liverpool, where he was twice a league winner, and England inspired generations of youngsters and future footballers, and at the time of his retirement from international football he had won more England caps than any other black player.
In a profile on its star player, Liverpool FC said: “There has been no finer sight in football than John Barnes in his pomp gliding down the wing. For talent and grace alone, he's an automatic choice in any hall of fame; but his impact on the game went far beyond goals and silver.
“The Jamaican-born dribbler was the first high-profile black player to grace Anfield back in the 1980s, a time when racial abuse echoed around stadia across the land. Barnes, alongside contemporaries such as Lawrie Cunningham, Cyril Regis, and Viv Anderson, was a catalyst for change.
“He didn't so much break down racial barriers as sweep around them at pace with the ball at his feet; always poised, always enthralling. The intense scrutiny which followed his £900,000 move from Watford in June 1987 didn't put Barnes off his stride as he set about winning over the locals.
“Arriving alongside fellow attackers John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley, the trio had Anfield purring from day one, and over the next few seasons 'full house' signs became a permanent fixture outside the Kop gates as the team endeavoured to play some of the most entertaining football English terraces have ever seen.
“An awesome blend of strength and skill, Barnes ensured a front row seat in the Kemlyn Road or Paddock was one of the hottest tickets in town…
“His sweet left foot was to prove the downfall of many a team as Liverpool took football in this country to new heights, completing a record-equalling 29-game unbeaten run and, ultimately, clinching a 17th league title.
“Unsurprisingly, Digger (as he was known) walked away with both 1987-88 Player of the Year accolades but defeat to Wimbledon in the FA Cup final denied him and his teammates a dream double…
“Success in the 1989 FA Cup final against Everton went some way to making up for the deep disappointment of losing at Wembley 12 months previously…
“A third successive campaign of breathtaking brilliance from Barnes in 1989-90 helped secure another championship. He top-scored with 22 league goals and was again voted FWA Player of the Year.
“Critics argued that he failed to replicate his outstanding club form for England, but this was of little concern to Liverpudlians who continued to marvel at his magic.
“Widely regarded at club level as one of the top players in the world, an ongoing European ban sadly denied Barnes the chance to test himself against the cream of the continent – and prevented him from emulating the medal haul of his illustrious Anfield predecessors.
“The positive influence he exerted on the club's up and coming youngsters meant Barnes was the ideal man to succeed Ian Rush as captain in the mid-1990s, with the likes of Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp, and Steve McManaman all benefiting from playing and training alongside a true great.
“Barnes led the side out for the turgid 1996 FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United but it was to be his last high-profile game for the club. A year later, the midfielder finally brought the curtain down on his illustrious Anfield career with a move to Newcastle.
“The qualities he possessed would have seen him walk into any of the great Liverpool sides of the past – no lesser a figure than Bob Paisley once said as much. Just as the No 7 shirt will always be associated with Kenny Dalglish, the No 10 will forever belong to Barnes.”
Barnes who also played for Charlton, is an outspoken voice against systematic racism in Britain.
— Compiled by Kevin Wainwright and edited by Desmond Allen
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login