Full name: John Charles Bryan Barnes
Born: 7 November 1963 in Kingston, Jamaica
Career as a player: 1981-1987: Watford. 1987-1997: Liverpool. 1997-1999: Newcastle United. 1999: Chariton Athletic.
Honours as a player: English league champion 1988 and 1990, FA Cup winner 1989 and 1992, participation in the 1986 and 1990 FIFA World Cup™ finals, and in the 1988 European Championship. Professional Footballers’ Association Footballer of the Year 1988- Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year 1988 and 1990. 79 caps and 11 goals for England. Barnes made 754 appearances for his four clubs and scored 198 goals.
Career as a manager: 1999-2000: Celtic. Since November 2008. Jamaica.
Miscellaneous: First married to and subsequently divorced from Suzy. They have two sons and two daughters: Jamie, Jordan, Jemma and Jasmin. John’s second wife is called Andrea and they have two daughters: Isabella and Tia. Barnes starred in the “Anfield Rap” ahead of the 1988 FA Cup Final with Wimbledon and in the 1990 England World Cup theme song “World in Motion” by New Order. He is an ambassador for the Save the Children charity and on a lighter note, he won acclaim for his dancing while competing in the fifth BBC series of Strictly Come Dancing, which started in October 2007. Along with fellow former footballers Les Ferdinand and Luther Blissett, he launched Team48 Motorsport to promote racers of Afro-Caribbean background.
John Barnes – new challenge in Jamaica
At the age of 45, John Barnes is back in football, and a few weeks ago, the former Liverpool and England legend took charge of Jamaica’s national team. Barnes now wants trophies and titles as a coach.
FM: You have been Jamaica’s national team coach since November. Why did you take charge of the Reggae Boyz?
John Barnes: First and foremost it is a great opportunity to get involved in football again, which is what 1 want to do. I’ve been trying to get back into football for the last eight years. As a coach or manager, you have to look at all the opportunities that come your way and this is the first opening that’s come my way. Plus, I’m from Jamaica and they have good players.
What are your memories of life in Jamaica?
Barnes: 1 left Jamaica at the age of 13. My dad played for Jamaica and managed the national side. So I grew up playing football and didn’t play much cricket. It’s always been football for me. I supported a club called Cavaliers and I know a lot of the coaches in the country now because 1 grew up playing with some of them. I know about Jamaican football. My dad was also a diplomat who was posted as a military attache to England for four years. I was fully expecting to go back to Jamaica at the age of 17 and my whole family flew back home. I was due to go back but my first club, Watford, had seen me playing in a park six weeks earlier and asked me if I wanted to stay. I didn’t sign on as an apprentice, 1 became a professional when I was virtually on the flight back.
Is the future as bright as the sunshine in Jamaica?
Barnes: The problem for Jamaica is that we haven’t qualified for the World Cup since France ’98 and we aren’t going to make it to South Africa in two years’ time. That’s down to the fact that although Jamaican football has improved, there’s been a re-emergence of the Central American countries – notably Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador. They have traditionally been stronger than the Caribbean teams but they went through a bit of a lull in the late ’90s. Jamaican football has moved forward though. Look at how many of our footballers are plying their trade in England at the highest level. Jamaica is making progress and there’s lots of potential.
What’s your international rescue plan?
Barnes: I’ve only got a one-year contract but that’s fine because too many people look too far down the line. My aim is to make an impression so we win matches in the short term. Then, come June, we will re-assess the situation and see if I stay on for a longer-term contract between myself and the Jamaica Football Federation. Too many people think long-term too often but then long term doesn’t happen because you’ve lost your job.
Has sprinter Usain Bolt’s record-breaking success at the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing raised expectations in terms of football?
Barnes: It hasn’t raised expectations in terms of football or rowing because Jamaica has always produced athletes who can compete with the best in the world and who are the best in the world. But remember, we have never been the best in the world football-wise. It’s like saying if Great Britain win the rowing at the Olympics should they go on and win the badminton. We have brilliant athletes so the expectation is for them do go on and do well. The expectation for the footballers is for them to do better than they currently are doing but there’s no suggestion they might win the FIFA World Cup™.
Do you envisage drastic changes?
Barnes: It will be a matter of just getting to know the players and getting them to play attractive football. As an international manager, you don’t get together with your players often but the bottom line is that you have to win matches and prepare your team accordingly. I want to get them playing in a consistent manner. Traditionally, some African and Caribbean teams ate sometimes brilliant, sometimes mediocre. I’ll tell them they don’t have to be brilliant all the time but they have to play consistently well because that’s the sign of a good team. I don’t want to see them blowing hot and cold.
Will they play like Liverpool did in your heyday?
Barnes: You must understand Jamaican culture. It’s like trying to get Brazil to play like Wimbledon did when the “Crazy Gang” was alive and kicking. It would be foreign to them so you have to appreciate the culture and the style of Jamaican players but also give them tactical discipline and more structure.
Is it just about getting the tactics right?
Barnes: Whilst I believe in the players’ technical ability, the most important thing is to do work with their mentality. That’s because if you look at
their athletes, for example, such as Bolt and Asafa Powell to a certain degree, Jamaican athletes have always had talent. Jamaican footballers are similar but have never had that real winning mentality and the dedication, discipline and organisation. You have to work on mentality and then you can really push them on.
Can you use examples to show them the way?
Barnes: I always use the example of Liverpool against AC Milan when they were 3-0 down and came back to win the Champions League. You can’t imagine an African or Caribbean side recovering in such style. AC Milan were superior but Liverpool won because of their belief and desire as well as talent. It’s the same with German sides over the years in big competitions. They’ve gone further with limited ability than many people thought they should, particularly in the 2002 World Cup, because of belief and togetherness. Greece showed by winning EURO 2004 that you don’t necessarily need the best players to succeed if you have the right mindset.
What have you been doing for the last eight years?
Barnes: Lots of media stuff, and plenty of charity stuff which has meant going to places like the Gaza Strip and also Africa. I went to visit the British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. I enjoyed my media work but that was to ensure football people didn’t forget about me when opportunities arose. I know so many people who, when they finished playing, lost their public profile and never got back into the game. I didn’t want to go down that route and I’m glad to be back in business. There are lots of people like me who ate forgotten from a supporters’ perspective when jobs come up. I don’t hear anyone mentioning, for example, Chris Waddle for jobs, who in my opinion would be a very good coach or manager. Unfortunately that does happen. That’s showbiz.
Weren’t you put off management by your experiences at Celtic, where you were sacked?
Barnes: Not at all. That had nothing to do with football. That was to do with politics. I wasn’t supported by very many people. I still have complete faith in my ability but now I have to ensure if I take a job that they want me and that I’ll receive the appropriate backing. At Celtic, they wanted Kenny Dalglish and he, as director of football, in turn wanted me. Under those circumstances, once we lost to arch-rivals Rangers and lost a couple of other
matches, my position became untenable. So that showed the most important thing is that everyone wants you to take a job. I’m not talking about fans; it’s about the hierarchy.
What are your favourite memories as a player?
Barnes: My first championship success with Liverpool stands out. But my early days at Watford under Graham Taylor were great as well. We finished second in the league behind Liverpool and just in front of Manchester United. Plus, we reached the FA Cup Final where we lost to Everton. We were a small club but we beat the big boys. Liverpool was where my football career really took off in terms of winning the championship, the FA Cup, two player of the year awards. They were really exciting times and really enjoyable.
And what about England?
Barnes: In terms of international football, that goal in Brazil was my personal highlight but so was playing in the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ finals and the quarter-final against Diego Maradona, who was the greatest player the world has ever seen. Plus, there was the 1990 FIFA World Cup’”, a tournament that holds special memories fot me.
What do you make of England’s chances of winning the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa?
Barnes: England did very well when they beat Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb but similarly, before that, following games against the Czech Republic and Andorra, people were saying we were the worst in the world but now they’re saying we’re the best in the world. England should play consistently instead of swinging from highs to lows. They don’t have to play like they did against Croatia all the time but they do have to have a level of consistency to ensure they are competitive every time they go out on to the field of play. We shouldn’t get too carried away and I’d urge people not to put too much pressure on Theo Walcott. He should be allowed to develop slowly.
And what about your fellow international manager, England’s Fabio Capello?
Barnes: You can’t make a judgement on him yet. You shouldn’t make a judgement from game to game but unfortunately that’s what people do in England. One minute he’s great, the next he’s rubbish. He won’t become a bad manager overnight whatever happens.
For more info, please visit the website of Jamaica Football federation