Saturday, October 14, 2006

100 Players Who Shook The Kop Top 10

#5 John Barnes

Name: John Barnes

Years at Liverpool: 1987 to 1997

Position: Winger

Date-of-birth: 7/11/1963

Birthplace: Kingston, Jamaica

Signed from: Watford (June 1987)

Games: 407
Goals: 110

Honours: First Division Championship (1987/88, 1989/90), FA Cup (1989), League Cup (1995), Charity Shield (1988, 1989, 1990), Football Writers Player of the Year (1988, 1990), PFA Player of the Year (1988)

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At his scintillating best in the late 1980's, there was no finer sight in football than that of John Barnes gliding down the left flank in a Liverpool shirt. One of the most exciting wingers of all-time, Barnes enthralled the Anfield crowd and ensured 'full-house' signs became a permanent fixture outside the Kop gates during one of the most entertaining era's in this club's history.

An awesome blend of poise, pace, strength and skill, when the Jamaican-born wide-man was in full flow he was quite simply a joy to watch and those privileged to have saw his sublime talent at close hand will forever cherish the memories.

Whenever he gained possession an air of anticipation would sweep through the ground, anything seemed possible as he advanced towards goal and to a generation of Liverpudlians he's still regarded as 'simply the best.'

Given the racial barriers that existed at the time, Barnes found himself the focus of intense scrutiny from day one of his Liverpool career but he took it all in his stride and quickly brought them crashing down, winning over the locals with his charismatic charm and amazing ability.

His sweet left foot and intricate close control was to prove the downfall of many a team as Liverpool took football in this country to previously unscaled heights during their run to a record-equalling 29-game unbeaten run from the start of the league season and a comfortable 17th title triumph.

Not surprisingly, Digger deservedly walked away with the 87/88 Player of the Year accolades but defeat to Wimbledon in the FA Cup Final denied him and his team-mates their dream double.

An exemplary role model, the positive influence he exerted on the club's up and coming youngsters meant he was the ideal man to succeed Ian Rush as captain in the mid-nineties - the likes of Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Fowler all benefiting from training and playing alongside him.

He spent a total of ten years with Liverpool, was a pivotal member of the side throughout and just as the number seven shirt will always be associated with Kenny Dalglish, the number ten will forever belong to Barnes.

On the pitch, John Barnes helped take Liverpool's brand of football to previously unscaled heights of excitement, but in a wider social context the contribution he made to the club was even more enduring.

Sold to: Newcastle United (1997)

Claim to fame: Being the club's first high-profile black player

Did you know? As well as an excellent footballer, he was also an accomplished rapper, performing on both the Anfield Rap and New Order's 'World in Motion'

Where is he now? After a brief spell in management with Celtic, he's now an established face in the media

Peter Hooton on John Barnes: "When he used to attack the Kop down the wing by the Kemlyn Road he literally used to walk past players. You just didn't know what he was going to do. Half the time I doubt even he knew what he was going to do. His technical ability was South American, it was Brazilian, there's no doubt about it. And that's why I state that he was my favourite all-time Liverpool player, to actually watch. I know Dalglish brought other things to the team but the most exciting, I ever thought, was John Barnes."

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