John Barnes turns 57 today. To celebrate the great man's birthday, we looked back at a very special career and picked out a few of his highlights.

To be fair, we were spoiled for choice. From his beginnings at Watford, where he quickly established himself as one of English football's finest talents, to a decade at Liverpool, which included two league titles - there was plenty to choose from. 

Watford promotion



It was July of 1981 that John Charles Bryan Barnes signed for Watford, arriving from Middlesex League club, Sudbury Court for the modest price of a set of kits. Legendary Watford boss Graham Taylor quickly inserted the then 18 year old into a line up that already featured the likes of Luther Blissett and Ross Jenkins. The young winger, just a year out of playing amateur football, would go on to score 13 goals as Watford secured their first ever promotion to English footballs top flight. 


Liverpool’s talisman



It was the summer of 1987 when Manchester United turned down the opportunity to buy Barnes from Watford, and it was instead Liverpool who bought the precocious winger for £900,000. Barnes slotted seamlessly into an all conquering Liverpool side who won a combined four leagues and FA cups in the four years after his arrival. He would be included in the PFA team of the year for all four of these years and in 1988 would win both the players and writers player of the season awards. He would ultimately depart the club a hero a decade after his arrival and would later be voted the fifth best player to have ever played for the side. 


The QPR goal '1987



It’s probably true that his 1984 goal again Brazil remains perhaps Barnes best remembered and most celebrated solo effort. A great goal, sure, but in truth the Brazil defence seemed already half way to the dressing room as Barnes waltzed in to score with a minute left to play. This effort from his first season with Liverpool is something very different. How can a goal scored by dribbling past Terry Fenwick and Paul Parker be better than going past five Brazilian defenders at Maracana you may ask. The answer, as it often was with Barnes, is in the hips. After skipping away from Fenwick gravity dictates that should have landed facing roughly 45 degrees to the left, he doesn’t though. No the six foot Barnes and his magical hips have in fact landed facing 45 degrees to his right, with the ball still under his control. Sure it’s over in a heartbeat and possibly even at first glance a little innocuous, but it really is magic.  


World in motion '1990



There’s not much more that needs to be said about this frankly, back before Clint Dempsey and Memphis Depay tried to make it big in the rap game there was John Barnes. Quite simply the godfather of rapping footballers.

Perhaps the most remarkable caveat to the whole tale is that Barnes only won the right to perform on the track after beating out Gazza, Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle in auditions. Sure Gazza had bags of personality and Waddle was bona fide pop royalty by this point but Peter bloody Beardsley! 

How different things could have been. The entire mumble rap genre could have landed a full two decades earlier, for one.


Lucozade ad '1992


By 1992 there was little left for the great John Barnes to do. He’d already conquered all comers on the pitch and laid down a yet undefeated football based rap. 

There was one thing left for Barnes however, he had to let you know how to quench that thirst. 

As Barnes and co return from 90 minutes of sheer hell there’s clearly only one thing on his mind. Make no mistakes about it, this is a heavyweight performance. The pacing of the delivery, the enunciation, the heavy breathing. It’s all there. It would be a long 8 years before Ally McCoist’s remarkable starring role in a shot at glory would usurp Barnes’ status as footballs greatest actor but in a world of awkward Joe Hart shampoo ads and excruciating Michael Owen guest spots, Barnesy once again reigns supreme.



England greatest ever left footer, a truly trailblazer and quite simply the man who could do it all.

Happy birthday, John Barnes.





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