John Barnes will fondly be remembered as one of the most gifted talents to ever gracefully slip on the red shirt of Liverpool.
For reasons that transcend the reaches of the sport, John Barnes signing for Liverpool will go down as one of the most significant points in the history of English football.
Although diversity is something we enjoy in our game today and social awareness is something we strive towards as fans, players, coaches, managers and humans, times were very different when Barnes was slaloming his way into stardom, sending shockwaves all over England. Black players signing for so-called ‘big’ teams was not a very common phenomenon – in fact, it was virtually non-existent.
So when Barnes, formerly of Watford, made his move over to Anfield – the home to one of the most successful clubs in the land it represented a major cultural shift.
It costs the Reds an estimated £900,000 (per the Liverpool Echo) to secure the Jamaican-born winger’s service, which seems a small price, inflation accounted for, given how extraordinarily good he was. Indeed, there are few players who have earned themselves a seat among the immortalised Anfield gods quite like the man in question.
Alongside John Aldridge and record signing Peter Beardsley, Barnes helped created one of the most formidable attacking trios known to the modern game. Barnes earned himself the PFA Player of the Year away in 1988 as Liverpool won the title, donning a remarkable 29 game unbeaten streak at the beginning of the season.
The football was fluid, the style was entertaining, and John Barnes was absolutely flying.
Although there are many memories to choose from, when admiring the career of Barnes, one of the most potent surely comes in the 1989 FA Cup final following the tragic events of the Hillsborough disaster. On the day, Barnes helped guide his side to victory over Everton, creating two goals for Ian Rush.
Barnes continued his run of form into the following season claiming 22 league goals to help Liverpool regain the title, claiming the championship-winning goal at Queens Park Rangers – earning him his second Player of the Year award. Although his career may have begun its very steady decline following injuries sustained in 1991, he played a significant part in Liverpool’s 1995 League Cup victory.
Two years later Barnes left the club on a free with two Premier League titles, dual FA Cup medals and a single League Cup.
Liverpool certainly have talented attackers at Anfield these days but we’ve absolutely no doubt that Barnes would walk into the current squad, such was his talent.
Liverpool fans, what are your fondest memories of the excellent John Barnes? Join the discussion by commenting below…