Footballer of the Year 1988 & 90: John Barnes, Liverpool

(John Barnes with his second Footballer of the Year trophy for the 1989-90 season – PA Archive)

Barnes was elected the Footballer of the Year at the end of his first season with Liverpool on the way to collecting the first major honour of his career, the First Division title.

At Liverpool, Barnes first excelled from the left-wing, adding creativity to the already dominant side of the decade. Both his Footballer of the Year awards came from that position, however, later in his career Barnes would move into midfield and become the orchestrator of the side.

In the 1987-88 season Barnes scored 14 goals as Liverpool romped to the League title and were only denied a double after their surprise loss to Wimbledon in the FA Cup final.

(John Barnes in action for England against Argentina in 1991 – Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport)

He would go on to win the FA Cup the following season and again three years later, Barnes also lifted a further League title in 1990 and the League Cup in 1995.

Barnes collected 79 caps for England having chosen to represent the country he grew up in from the age of 12 rather than Jamaica the country of his birth.

He scored 11 goals for England and none more memorable than his first, an incredible mazy dribble taking on half the Brazil team, before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting in. Manager Bobby Robson said of it: “Nobody who was in the Maracana Stadium when John scored his wonder goal for England will ever forget it.“

Barnes won all his major honours as a Liverpool player, but he is fondly remembered by fans of his first club Watford, for whom he made more than 200 league appearances. He also represented Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic in his later career, before spells as manager of Celtic, Jamaica and Tranmere Rovers.

What John said:

“I reckon that any three or four of the Liverpool side in 1987-88 could have won the Footballer of the Year award. Kenny Dalglish had taken over from Joe Fagan as manager in 1985 and, when I signed from Watford, I thought we were set for a transitional period that clubs go through when new signings arrive. But we all clicked right from the first kick.

“Perhaps I earned the votes ahead of the others because I was more flamboyant than some of my team-mates and caught the eye more, but I honestly feel I collected the trophy for being part of a superb team performance.

“Liverpool were runners-up in the League championship when I won again in 1990 and I remember being linked with those all-time greats Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney as the third of three wingers among the select band of players who have won the trophy for a second time. I never had the pleasure of seeing Tom Finney play, but I was flattered when he commented that I was bringing wing skills back into the game.”

What the writers said:

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