Exclusive: John Barnes chats to TT with England’s World Cup in motion

England have finally won a penalty shootout. After a nerve-racking and tense game, Gareth Southgate’s young team managed to scrape through to the quarter-finals by beating Colombia.

Thanks to Harry Kane penalty, England spent much of the game 1-0 up until a late header from Yerry Mina levelled the game and sent it into extra-time. Somehow, the Young Lions survived the thirty minutes, to go into the dreaded penalty shootout, only for Eric Dier to slot away the winning spot kick to send England fans into delirium.

Ahead of the round of 16 game, the Transfer Tavern, spoke to England and Liverpool legend John Barnes.

Our man Bill McLoughlin sat down for an interview talking about JustEat’s latest campaign, Barnes shared his thoughts on the current England side, Liverpool and the infamous VAR, as well as delivering his verdicts on the likes of Raheem Sterling and Naby Keita.

TT: For anyone who’s unaware, can you tell us about your campaign with JustEat?

JB: Well, JustEat is a campaign where now if your order from the app you have the chance of winning some plates and there’s a plate with my face on it.  Where you can actually lick John Barnes’ face, you can lick my face off the plate during the World Cup and they’re plates which Gianfranco Zola designed. They’re giving these plates away when you order from the JustEat app.

TT: Were you happy with the interpretation of your face on a plate?

JB: It was supposed to be a bit tongue in cheek, it was supposed to make me look a bit more like Denzel Washington. It was a bit of caricature rather than a serious one, so yeah from a caricature standpoint, it was ok. 

What was it like doing the advert? Was it a bit strange? 

JB: I’ve never had someone licking my face, so yes it was a bit strange, especially when it was half an hour of face licking but when you’re my age and you remember the 80s, that was just a weekend thing.

Have you been enjoying the World Cup so far?

JB: Absolutely, it reminds me of Leicester winning the League when you’re talking about all the best teams and the big teams, and who’s going to win the semi-final some of the big boys have gone out. But it t shows that the so-called nations are catching up. So much as the usual suspects are there – Germany and Spain are the big exclusions -Russia are the home team they’re a good side, so is that much of a shock? Yeah but it’s not a huge an upset as some people might think. South Korea did well in 2002, so the home nation has an advantage.

We’re fortunate we’re in the different half, the other half is the half of death if you like. The other side of the draw has France, Belgium, Uruguay, Brazil, our half is a decent half.

TT: Who had the worst diet of all your England teammates?

JB: We all did. You didn’t have the situation you do now with all the dieticians and all the players knows how to look after themselves. I would have said probably Gazza and Peter Beardsley because he used to eat chocolate and drink a lot of Coca-Cola. 

TT: A lot was spoken about the side’s inexperience before the tournament, have the squad surprised you at how well they’ve done?

JB: No they haven’t because they beat Tunisia 2-1, they beat Panama and they lost to Belgium. Should they not have beaten Panama who are the worst team in the World Cup? Yes they should’ve. So we can’t get too carried and thinking we’ve performed better than we should’ve done, because we’ve done as well as we should’ve done, in terms of beating Panama and scraping past Tunisia. We’re doing what we should do. We’re getting a little bit carried away in how well we think we’ve done.

After the Colombia game we can look ahead to the rest of the World Cup.

TT: A lot has been spoken about Raheem Sterling and the difficulty he’s had in replicating his club form for England. How hard is it to take your club form into international matches?

JB: Well it’s not taking your form with you, it’s more the idea that the style of football suits you more so than the other.  When I played for Liverpool, the style of play suited me completely and Man City suits him completely. Maybe England doesn’t suit him as well but I don’t think he’s playing as badly as people are making about, maybe he hasn’t scored but he’s taken people on, taking up good positions. He’s not playing as well as he does for Man City but I think it’s unfair to heap so much pressure on Raheem Sterling, he’s a young player.

The problem we’ve is that when we have senior players, they’re the ones under pressure to perform. We shouldn’t be putting pressure on Raheem Sterling. If we allow him to play without pressure, then he’ll perform. However, club football is different. There are some players who are more suited to international football than club football, like Danny Welbeck. Danny does better for England, than he does for Arsenal. Playing for England suits him better than playing for Arsenal, I remember Darius Vassell was fantastic for England but maybe not for his club. It’s more about the type of football that suits you.

TT: Would you change the team going ahead?

JB: I would play a proper defender, in the knockout stages against better opposition, I’d play Danny Rose ahead of Ashley Young. Ashley Young has done well but playing against better teams, you need better defenders. The further we go, I would rather have defenders in those defensive positions. 

TT: How did you find it playing for Liverpool and then going away to play for England? 

JB: It was fine. Liverpool’s style of play suited me better than playing for England. The fact of playing in a World Cup was exciting because that’s what you dream about. It wasn’t an issue playing for England, after playing for but I knew that it would be different playing for England than Liverpool. I knew I wouldn’t be able to play as consistently for England as I could for Liverpool.

TT: That seems to be a special aura around Liverpool and the city, why is that?

JB: It’s a relationship between the club and the fans which goes back to the Bill Shankly era – the family of Liverpool. It’s not just about the players, it’s the harmony when you’re out in town. You have to be giving, you have to give to the fans. Rather than they’re supporting you and you’re appreciative of it. You have to ingratiate yourself with the fans on a personal level when you play for Liverpool and I don’t think other clubs have that.

TT: Will that relationship be hard to keep?

JB: Well of course they don’t have it as much as they use because that’s what football is.

They don’t have it as much as we did because they don’t go out as much as we did and mixed with the fans. It’s changed but you still have to understand that’s what fans demand from you.

TT: Naby Keita has taken the number eight shirt, what does he have to do to fill the boots of greats in the past?

JB: The number on the shirt doesn’t really matter that much. If Naby Keita were number 62, he’d still have to perform well enough and be successful so numbers on the shirt mean nothing. He’s not going to be a Steven Gerrard, so therefore numbers mean nothing to me. I’m not putting the pressure on to perform because of the number eight shirt, I’m putting pressure on him because he’s good, and I know what he could do. Jurgen Klopp has faith in him, therefore the Liverpool fans have faith in him but they’re not looking at him to replace Steven Gerrard. They’re looking at him to be a part of this modern Liverpool side and be successful.

TT: How do you think VAR has gone so far in the World Cup?

JB: I think it’s been a resounding success, it’s been absolutely fantastic. And I’ll tell you why, because it’s given the refs an opportunity to see if they’ve made a mistake. Now if the ref has another look and they still make that decision and we think it’s wrong, that’s not the fault of the VAR, that’s because of the referee. It’s given the ref another opportunity to see what he’s done, to look again and see if he’s made a mistake. We can’t criticise VAR for the decision the referee has made. We can criticise the referee if we don’t agree with him but not the system itself.

The game’s not slowed down as far as I’m concerned, it’s added some interest and it’s gone more decision right than they have wrong. In actual fact, I don’t think it’s got any decision wrong because it’s an opinion as to whether it’s a foul. The referee hasn’t got it wrong, we just disagree agree with him, which is not a problem with VAR.

Just Eat is offering hungry football fans who order on the Just Eat app between the 14th June and 15th July the chance to get their hands on limited edition 2018 Football Plates. There are four plates to collect and hundreds will be given away to celebrate the summer of football.

To Top