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Barnes, John

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One of Liverpool FC’s greatest ever players and also rappers, John Barnes was a key part of Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool team of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Digger amassed an impressive 407 appearances, scoring 108 goals for Liverpool as well as 79 caps for England, making him England’s most capped black player at the time.

Blessed with pace and exceptional dribbling ability, he seemed to glide past players with ease, but somehow never really delivered the same results for England and as a result was frequently the victim of abuse from opposition fans.

Barnes also notably suffered frequent racial abuse, most famously against Everton in the Merseyside derby, where he removed a banana which was thrown at him from the pitch by backheeling it. Barnes seemed to draw motivation from the abuse that he received though and some of the football that he produced for Liverpool at the time was frightening.

Born in Jamaica, Digger’s family moved to England when he was a young boy and he was signed by Watford as a schoolboy in exchange for a set of kit for his junior side. He was given his debut by Graham Taylor in a second division match against Oldham at the age of 17.

Watford were a side in the ascendancy at the time and had risen quickly from the fourth division. They ultimately achieved promotion in Barnes’ first season and in the following year finished as league runners up to Liverpool, reaching (but ultimately losing) the FA Cup final to Everton in the process. It was during his Watford days that Barnes established himself in the international picture, most notably for a stunning solo goal in a friendly against Brazil in the Maracana. Unfortunately, this seemed to set an unrealistic level of expectation at international level for Digger, expectations which he struggled to meet.

Barnes left Watford for Liverpool in June 1987 for a fee of around £900,000, joining fellow new arrival Peter Beardsley alongside Ian Rush and John Aldridge to make one of the most fearsome attacks in world football. Liverpool steamrollered the league remaining undefeated for their first 29 league matches, and winning the league by nine points, conceding just 24 goals and losing just 2 games.

Barnes went to Italia 90 on the back of a season where he scored 22 goals in 34 games. Most famously though, he provided the rap for EnglandNewOrder’s number 1 single “World In Motion”, England’s official World Cup song. This was Barnes’ second top three UK single following The Anfield Rap, which reached number 3 in 1988. His World Cup though was ultimately disappointing again and he found himself dropped by the time England were eliminated on penalties against Germany.

The turning point in Digger’s Liverpool career was at the end of the 91/92 season, where he suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury. When he recovered, his searing pace had all but gone and his effectiveness began to wane. Over the next few seasons, he was converted to a deep lying playmaker alongside Jamie Redknapp and used his passing ability and creativity to good effect, whilst leaving the mazy runs to Steve McManaman.

After ten glorious years at Anfield, Barnes left to join Kenny Dalglish’s project at Newcastle. He stayed on Tyneside for just over a year before joining newly promoted Charlton. The Addicks were relegated and Digger decided to bring the curtain down on an illustrious 20 year career.

After Kenny Dalglish was appointed Director of Football at Celtic, Digger took on the role of manager. His tenure at Parkhead was most notable for The Hoops’ shock exit from the Scottish Cup at the hands of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Barnes was sacked shortly afterwards. For six months, he worked as the manager of the Jamaican national team, qualifying them for the CONCACAF Cup as the highest rated Caribbean side.

Digger has also worked as a pundit for Five, and appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, where he finished 7th. He has been recently appointed as the manager of Tranmere with fellow ex-red Jason McAteer as his assistant.

He recently finished fifth in a vote on liverpoolfc.tv’s poll to find the top ten favourite Liverpool players of all time, finishing behind Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush, Steven Gerrard, and Kenny Dalglish.

++ / LFChistory.net -- Past Present Future

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