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John Barnes

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Crosby Nick:
I thought a thread or two on some of our former legends might make a refreshing change from some of the negative stuff that's been knocking about recently. I know for loads of people John Barnes was their first footballing hero:

I was 8 in the summer of 1987 when my Dad told me that Liverpool had signed John Barnes. At the time I had heard of him from his appearances off the bench at Mexico 86 and that was about it. As a kid I was more interested in playing the game than watching a game on the TV unless it involved Liverpool. A year later (probably less than that in reality) and I had my first footballing hero.

Due to a less than blanket coverage of football on TV back then I can't even remember the 'buzz' that was created by those who witnessed his first few away performances. The first time I saw him play in the flesh was against Everton in November where his majestic back heel helped create the clinching 2nd goal for Beardsley. Over the next 4 seasons I was lucky enough to witness one of the all time Liverpool greats perform to a consistently outstanding level. He seemed to have everything a left winger should have and much more besides:
Pace - as his 2nd goal vs QPR in 1987 demonstrated, Digger was pacey and direct, lengthening his stride to keep control of the ball when running at the heart of a defence
Skill - unlike many of today's show ponies Digger only used tricks when he had to. No-one was better at getting to the bye-line then cutting along it, biding his time before picking out the perfect cut back. His nutmegging of Steve Chettle in the 5-0 win over Forest was a great example of this.
Delivery - Think back to some of the best goals we scored in that time and chances are many feature a delicious Barnes cross. Off the top of my head he provided one for Houghton in the FA Cup at Goodison, one for Aldo's volley at the first FA Cup semi at Hillsborough, his cross for Rush in the 89 cup final.
Workrate - ok, I'm going off the old Radio 2 commentaries for this one but I can frequently remember the likes of Byan Butler (I think) talking of Barnes performing in an auxiliary left back position
Goals - in 1989/90 he played down the middle for quite a number of games and finished top scorer with 28 goals (22 in the league).
Something indefinable - in an outstanding team Barnes was still the one player the fans would look to for a moment of inspiration in times of trouble. A bit of magic from Digger and he would have laid a chance on a plater for Aldo or Rush or bent a free kick in himself like late on in the FA Cup against QPR in 1990. As a young fan I always had the sense that if Barnes was still on the pitch then we always had a chance.

In the early 1990's Barnes suffered from a number of injuries, must notably a ruptured achilles tendon in 1992 that led to a length layoff. When he returned he had lost a lot of his pace but still retained his excellent passing ability. Under Roy Evans Barnes was moved to a central midfield position and re-invented his game. Instead of electric bursts of pace he kept the game ticking over with short and long accurate passing, occasionally chipping in with vital (and brilliant goals like his scissor kick against Blackburn at Ewood Park in 1994. He was starting to get bypassed by younger, fitter players and in the spring of 1997 was dropped for the first time in his career for the 2nd leg of the Cup Winners Cup tie against Paris St Germain. He left for Newcastle at the end of that season.

Anyone who saw Barnes in his pomp would mark him down as one of the all time greats. The heights he consistently hit from 1987-1991 mark him down as the best player I have seen in a Liverpool shirt.

I appreciate that many of you will have seen a lot more of him live than I did so please add to this thread with your favourite memories of him. In fact, I'd be interested in hearing everyone's view on John Barnes. For those over 35, how do you rate him compared to the likes of Kenny? For the younger fans who might only remember him in his latter years, have you seen videos of how good he was?

John Barnes

Appearances: 409
Goals: 108
2 x First Division (1987/88, 1989/90)
2 x FA Cup (1989, 1992)
1 x League Cup (1995)

My top 5 Barnes goals:
1) 2nd goal vs QPR in 1987 - won the ball on halfway, jinked through the defence and passed the ball past Seaman
2) Curler vs Everton in the 4-4 epic at Goodison
3)Scissor kick vs Balckburn in 1994
4) Free kick vs Arsenal at Anfield in 1989, helping us gain a measure of revenge from what went on a few months earlier
5) vs Southampton away in 1996 - a howler of a clearance from Dave Beasant, slotted in first time from 45 yards.
He's so good I'll throw a 6th in there:
6) A brilliant 'pass and move'  classic in the 5-4 win at Leeds in 1991

Pace, poise, power, sheer class! There's so much more I could add but will leave it at that for now. All praise, stories and memories of the great man in here please...

PS - I know Bosshog started a similar thread a year or so ago so feel free to merge/delete if appropriate!...

xabi rules:
Steve Nicol provided the cross for Rush's first goal in the 1989 FA Cup Final. Apart from that, top post.

Party Phil:

Spot on post.....a thing of beauty was Barnesy.

Crosby Nick:

--- Quote from: xabi rules on January 21, 2009, 05:55:11 pm ---Steve Nicol provided the cross for Rush's first goal in the 1989 FA Cup Final. Apart from that, top post.

--- End quote ---

Damn you - always used to get them two mixed up! ;) Amended it now!


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