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John Barnes Biography

Considered one of the greatest English players of all time, the Liverpool icon also had a prolific career as a musician and author. In John Barnes biography, we cover the story of one of the prominent figures in the battle against racism in football.

Currently working for ESPN and SuperSport as a broadcaster and pundit, John Barnes started his career as a quick, skillful left winger before moving to center midfield later in his career.

He helped Liverpool to win two league titles and two cup finals as well as winning 79 England caps, the most caps a black player ever managed to get for a long time. Here, we gather everything about John Barnes, including his childhood, early life, family, career, and personal life.

Everything to Know About John Barnes

Born and raised in Jamaica as the son of the Trinidadian colonel, Ken Barnes, John Barnes life story narrates the challenges one of the best footballers in English football had to face in order to pave the way for other black footballers to emerge. He was elected to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 while FourFourTwo magazine rated him Liverpool’s finest all-time player two years later. The Times magazine also rated him as England’s finest-ever left-footed player in 2016. In John Barnes Biography, you read about a Jamaican dreamer that became one of the greatest in English football history.

John Barnes Information

Credit: Sporting News

Born on 7 November 1963, John Barnes real name is John Charles Bryan Barnes. In this part of John Barnes biography, we take a look at his general information.

  • Full Name: John Charles Bryan Barnes
  • Nickname: Digger
  • Profession: Professional Football Player

Physical Stats

  • Height: 181 cm (5′ 11″ feet)
  • Eye Color: Brown
  • Hair Color: Black
  • Weight: 76 Kilograms

Date of Birth and Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 7 November 1963
  • Birth Place: Kingston, Jamaica
  • Nationality: Jamaican English

John Barnes Football Information

  • Position: Left-Winger, Centre-Midfielder
  • Professional Debut: 5 September 1981
  • Jersey Number: 10

John Barnes Early Life

Credit: The Times

In this part of John Barnes biography, we take a look at John Barnes’s family, his childhood, parents, and siblings.

Born on 7 November 1963, John Barnes’s parents are Ken Barnes (a Trinidadian colonel), and Frances Jeanne Hill (a Jamaican). Spending his early childhood in Jamaica’s biggest military base, Barnes lived a disciplined life while playing football.

Ken Barnes was a military man who was born in Port of Spain before immigrating to Jamaica in 1956. He was also a semi-professional footballer and also captained the Jamaica national football team. As a huge fan of squash and football, he encouraged his son to pursue sports. An interesting fact about John Barnes is that he was named after Welsh footballer John Charles. John also has two older sisters, Tracey and Gillian.

After his father was appointed as Defence adviser to the High Commission of Jamaica, London, John moved to London with his family in January 1976. Barnes attended St Marylebone Grammar School before a short stint at Haverstock School, Camden Town. He attended Stowe Boys Club at the youth level before starting his senior football career at Studbury Court.

John Barnes Profile

Credit: BBC

Barnes started his youth career at Stowe Boys Club, where he played as a center-back. His coach selected him to play on his other team, Studbury Court, in a semi-professional league. Because of the rough nature of the league, he played in the safest position, left-wing. After less than a season with Sandbury Court, Barnes was invited to a trial game in Watford’s reserves. Subsequently, Watford signed him on 14 July 1981 for the fee of a set of kits. That’s where John Barnes biography takes a peak.

Football Career

In this part of John Barnes biography, we take a look at his marvelous career both as a player and a manager.

Credit: Watford Football Club

After a successful trial game, Watford signed Barnes in 1981 from Sudbury Court. He made his debut when he was only 17 on 5 September 1981 in a draw with Oldham Athletic. Barnes quickly established himself as a regular player as he helped Watford to earn promotion to the First Division by scoring 12 goals.

Following their promotion, Watford finished the next season as runners-up to Liverpool. Barnes also helped Watford to reach the 1984 FA Cup Final, which they lost 2-0 to Everton. While new Watford manager Dave Bassett offered Barnes to Alex Ferguson, the Scottish manager rejected to sign him as he ended up joining their fierce rivals, Liverpool on June 12, 1987. During his seven seasons at Watford, Barnes made 233 league appearances and scored 65 goals.

Credit: Getty Images

The most important part of John Barnes biography starts when he signed for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s manager Kenny Dalglish signed Barnes along with Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge, and Ray Houghton in the summer of 1987. Barnes cost Liverpool £900,000. He made his debut in a 2-1 league victory against Arsenal on 15 August 1987. Further, he scored his first Liverpool goal against Oxford United on 12 September.

Scoring 15 goals in his first Liverpool season, Barnes led Liverpool to win the league title. However, they were beaten in the FA Cup Final by Wimbledon. Due to his performances, Barnes was voted PFA Player of the Year.

Following the Hillsborough disaster, Barnes resigned from England’s international duty to participate in several funerals and visited the injured in the hospital. Liverpool won the 1989 FA Cup Final over their rivals Everton in the next year with Barnes creating goals from the left wing for Rush. However, he was responsible for Liverpool losing the league title to Arsenal as the Gunners’ league-winning 92nd-minute goal occurred in their counter-attack 17 seconds after Barnes lost ball possession.

Barnes helped Liverpool to win the 1990 League title by scoring 22 goals. In addition, Football Writers’ Association selected him as their Footballer of the Year. Following Kenny Dalglish’s resignation, he fell out of Graeme Souness’s favor. However, he led Liverpool to win the 1994-95 Football League Cup under Roy Evans. He then moved from left-wing to a central-midfield role.

After 10 years at Liverpool, winning five major trophies as well as scoring 108 goals through 407 appearances, Barnes left Liverpool on a free transfer and joined Newcastle United, where he reunited with Kenny Dalglish.

Newcastle United
Credit: Planet Football

Rejecting an approach from West Ham, Barnes opted to join his former Liverpool boss, Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle United. Playing as a striker in his debut season replacing the injured Alan Shearer, Barnes ended up Newcastle’s top league scorer with six goals.

Although Newcastle had a disappointing league season, they reached the 1998 FA Cup Final, where they lost the title to Arsenal. However, following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish, he spent several months in the reserves under Ruud Gullit. As a result, Barnes left the club on a free transfer and joined the newly-promoted Charlton Athletic.

Charlton Athletic

After joining the club on a free transfer on 10 February 1999, Barnes made his debut for Charlton in a 1-0 victory over his former side, Liverpool on 13 February 1999. He made a total of 11 league appearances that season. However, he failed to register any goals. With a defeat on the final day of the season sent Charlton back to Division One, Barnes announced his retirement as a player after 20 years.

Managerial Career

Credit: The Celtic Star

In this part of John Barnes biography, we take a brief look at his managerial career.

After he retired from playing, Kenny Dalglish, serving as Celtic’s director of football, appointed John Barnes as the club’s new head coach on 8 June 1999. However, following a 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in February, the board decided to sack him. Although he re-registered himself as a player during his Celtic reign, he never played a competitive game.

Barnes became Jamaica national team’s head coach on 16 September 2008. Guiding Jamaica to a first-place finish in the 2008 Caribbean Championships, they qualified as the top Caribbean side for the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

After stating his desire to return to club management, Barnes left Jamaica to become the League One club Tranmere Rovers on 15 June 2009. With Tranmere only winning three of their opening fourteen games, the club decided to sack Barnes on 9 October 2009.

International Career

Credit: RT Sport

Despite being born in Jamaica, Barnes opted to play for England at the international level as he made his debut in England’s 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland in the British Championship. He was the seventh black player who played for England.

Barnes was subjected to threats from racist groups during his early England days. Bobby Robson also didn’t use Barnes at the 1986 World Cup until the quarter-finals, where 15 minutes left while losing against Argentina he sent him in as a substitute. He contributed an assist for Gary Lineker and made another chance for the striker who was denied. Although England were eliminated, Barnes was praised for his contribution and became a regular starter for England at the Euro 1988 and 1990 World Cup.

He also played for England in the Euro 1992 and 1994 World Cup. In a total of 79 England caps, Barnes scored 11 goals, making him England’s record-capped black player for a long time.

John Barnes’s Playing Style

Credit: SportsMax

In this part of John Barnes biography, we tend to the Liverpool icon’s style of play.

For Liverpool fans, John Barns had everything a footballer needed; powerful shooting, powerful heading, sublime control, flawless passing, precise crossing, mesmeric dribbling, perfect balance, robust tackling, lightning pace, brute strength, peripheral vision, and unflappable temperament. As a wide player, John Barnes stats give testimony to his greatness as he scored 108 goals during his Liverpool career, a marvelous crosser with the ability to cut inside and shoot with both feet.

However, the bond between Barnes and Liverpool fans goes beyond his football career. His experiences at Hillsborough, and his work in the aftermath, coupled with a period of great success on the football field have cemented the relationship between Barnes, generations of Liverpool supporters, and the people of Merseyside.

England icon Tom Finney remarked, “players like John Barnes come along just once in a lifetime.”


Credit: Football365

Barnes is known as one of the greatest English players of all time. He came sixth in a poll by Liverpool fans as their greatest player ever in 2006. A year later, FourFourTwo named him Liverpool’s best all-time player. The Times selected Barnes as England’s greatest-ever left-footed player in 2016.

In addition, various footballers selected Barnes in their FourFourTwo Perfect XI, including Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, Peter Beardsley, Ian Wright, and Jamie Carragher.
Besides football, he also penned two books, John Barnes: The Autobiography and The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism. Both of the books were met with a positive reception.

His collaboration with New Order in England’s official 1990 World Cup song, “World in Motion”, reached #1 in the charts. He performs the rap section of the song. In addition, he rapped in “Anfield Rap” and Liverpool’s 96 Cup final song, “Pass & Move (It’s the Liverpool Groove)”.

John Barnes Honors

Credit: Getty Images

In this part of John Barnes biography, we take a look at his honors during his 20-year playing career.

During his time with Watford, Barnes helped the club to Football League Second Division promotion in 1982, with manager Graham Taylor leading the club to rise from the Fourth Division to the First in five years. Barnes was also essential in the following years when they ended as the First Division runners-up behind Liverpool. He also led the club to the 1984 FA Cup Final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Everton.

Barnes won two league titles with Liverpool in the 1987-88 and 1989-90 seasons. In addition, he won the FA Cup in 1989 and 1992, League Cup in 1995, and FA Charity Shield in 1988, 1989, and 1990. As a manager, he won Caribbean Cup with Jamaica in 2008.

On the individual level, he was selected PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1988 and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1988 and 1990. He was also included in the PFA First Division Team of the Year in 1988, 1990, and 1991. PFA also selected Barnes in their Team of the Century in 2007, two years after he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

For his football and charity works, Barnes became a Member of the Order of the British Empire by order of the Queen.

John Barnes Outside Professional Life

Credit: AmoMama

John Barnes’s wife is Andrea. Barnes has married twice. He married his first wife, Suzy, in 1991. Suzy gave birth to two daughters and two sons, Jamie, Jordan, Jemma, and Jasmine. After divorcing Suzy, he married Andrea in 2006, who added two daughters, Isabella and Tia, to John Barnes’s children, as well as a son named Alexander.

After getting sacked by Tranmere, Barnes declared bankrupt, which he stated as a technicality: “The bankruptcy issue is a tax oversight which is being dealt with.” As a result, the order was quickly overturned.

Andrei Lei
Andrei Lei
Andrei is a die-hard Liverpool fan who happens to be a journalist. While not watching, reading, or writing about football, he spends time with the music


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