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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 19:10 GMT
The icon who fell to earth

Dalglish and Barnes: All smiles last summer


John Barnes is widely-respected as an intelligent reader of the game and as Britain's first black superstar footballer.

But the Jamaican-born former England star has become a managerial failure after just eight months at Celtic.

John Barnes
Born: Jamaica, 07/11/63
Clubs: Watford, Liverpool, Newcastle, Charlton, Celtic (as head coach)
England caps: 79 (his country's ninth-most capped player), 11 goals
PFA player of the year 1988, first black player to win the award
Footballer of the year 1988 and 1990, still the only black winner of the football writers' award
Liverpool honours: League championship 1988, 1990, FA Cup: 1989, 1992, League Cup: 1995
Until now, all that most fans could find to criticise Barnes for were some indifferent England displays and his garish dress sense on television.

But Celtic fans have found themselves hitting their TV's off-button because of more than their former head coach's clothing.

His team have disappointed, with big-money transfers falling flat on their faces as quickly as disappointing results have arrived. So what happened?

Was this a job too difficult for a managerial novice, despite his friend and mentor Kenny Dalglish's guiding hand?

And why has Barnes been unable to do what he did as a player, and become once again a pioneer for the British black community?

The young Barnes starred for Watford
Barnes was born in Jamaica, the son of an army officer and a television presenter.

But whereas Watford manager Graham Taylor's later discovery of West Indian Dwight Yorke took place in the Caribbean, Barnes was spotted by the Hertfordshire club while at school in England.

He starred as the small club were transformed from a small fourth division outfit into runners-up in the both the League Championship and the FA Cup, and played 21 internationals while at Watford.

One of those included the goal for which he will always be remembed, when he took on and beat Brazil's best in Rio's Maracana in 1984.


His achievement was probably a bigger step forward for black players than most people realised at the time
Mark Bright on John Barnes
The only problem was that the English football public expected the same every time Barnes played for his adopted country, and he never again delivered such a knockout blow.

There were memorable moments, such as when he helped England almost equalise Maradona's infamous hand-of-God goal in 1986.

He also gave Taylor's team a brief sight of beating the Dutch in 1993 with a memorable Wembley free kick.

But Marc Overmars in that game, and then Ronald Koeman in Rotterdam controversially denied England a 1994 World Cup place.

Rapper Barnes

And many will cynically suggest that his most significant contribution to England's path to the semi-final at Italia 90, was as the team's star rapper on the New Order squad record World in Motion.

1984: Setting off on the run which led to Maracana glory
In that respect Barnes more than matched his club form, outdoing his contribution to the 1988 Anfield Rap, with a performance on arguably the finest football record in history.

But Liverpool fans of course were perfectly happy that Barnes saved his best football for them, if not his best performance "on the mike".

His impact in Kenny Dalglish's side ensured that Barnes became an iconic figure in English football.

One of his contemporaries as black footballers made their mark in the English game, Mark Bright, believes the 900,000 transfer of Barnes from Hertfordshire to Merseyside in 1987 was a key moment for the sport.

Writing in 1997, Bright suggested: "Liverpool as a city had a reputation for being resistant towards black players."

World in Motion: Italia 1990 versus Belgium
The former Crystal Palace star, who with strike partner Ian Wright was one of the few players to enjoy success over the all-conquering Liverpool in 1990's FA Cup semi-final, says Barnes was a role model aspiring black youngsters in Liverpool.

"Barnes was a resounding success during his decade at Anfield with his intelligent play on the field and his articulate manner off it," said Bright, who believed Barnes helped break down racial barriers within the city.

"His achievement was probably a bigger step forward for black players than most people realised at the time," added Barnes.

This was confirmed as Liverpool the team were only denied the double by Wimbledon's shock FA Cup final win.

Barnes won his own double, becoming the first black player to win both major English player of the year awards, and only the second footballer to win both in the same season.

He repeated his football writers' award in 1990, and remains the only black footballer to have won this honour.

Liverpool fans took Barnes to their hearts
As with the Liverpool team, Barnes was never the same once Dalglish left, despite 1992's FA Cup win.

The player was even forced to make a written apology for criticising new manager Graham Souness in the club's match programme, shortly before the Scotsman was sacked.

But under successor Roy Evans his role changed, as his later years saw him lose his pace as a dangerous left winger, but not his ability as an influential and cultured midfielder.

Despite 1995's League Cup win Evans might have stayed loyal too long, claiming that Barnes' influence was like having an extra coach on the pace.

Some fans were not so sure, and one terrace wag asked if Evans' reference to a team coach referred to a "large vehicle that was slow to turn".

1995: Barnes the midfield main-man
But a short stint at Newcastle and a brief stay at Charlton saw his influence continue as the former reached the 1997 FA Cup final.

Last season Charlton almost avoided relegation with a late run inspired by Barnes' presence in a squad containing old admirer Mark Bright.

Both men retired from playing last summer, as Wright will from Celtic at the end of this season.

Bright's own 1997 article on the subject gave a qualified: "Football has come a long way in eradicating racism."

He might have added that this was the case on the field, because black British managers have still failed to make an expected impact.

Dutchman Ruud Gullit won an FA Cup with Chelsea, but the careers of Viv Anderson at Barnsley and Chris Kamara at Bradford ended almost as soon as they had started.

Management proved tough at Parkhead
When the going got tough in all three cases, and for differing reasons, no chairman was willing to stick with any of these managers, a fate which has now befallen Barnes.

Many will argue that all four were inexperienced bosses, and only Gullit had brought sustained success before falling out with his chairman.

But others may interpret Barnes' rough treatment in Glasgow differently, although the city was never going to be the easiest place to start a managerial career, even with Dalglish's guiding hand.

As Rangers built up an impressive lead and Barnes' signings failed, it only needed an embarrassing cup defeat to end his reign.

And this as his own players fell out with him too. It might have needed public apologies again for him to have stayed.

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Barnes forced out
05 Feb 00 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic throw in the towel
04 Feb 00 |  Scottish Premier
Tebily is Glasgow bound
08 Feb 00 |  Football
Caley's minnows slay Celtic
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.