Barnes lived on Jamaica’s largest military post and grew up playing a lot of football, following in his father’s footsteps. Ken Barnes, John’s father, was a huge football enthusiast himself, hence why he named his son after a Welsh footballer. In 1973, Ken was promoted to Colonel and sent as the Defence Advisor to the Jamaican High Commission in London. As a result, when John was 12 years old, he and his family relocated there. Barnes played for his school’s football teams throughout his youth until he was discovered by Watford FC. In 1981, he joined with the club and made his debut as a substitute at the age of 17. Barnes left Watford after 6 years to join Liverpool FC. A few months later, he scored his first goal. Barnes was a regular subject of racial abuse throughout his career at Anfield. Some examples include having to backheel a banana thrown at him during a match against Everton. However, he managed to still score 65 goals and gain the title of FWA Player of the Year. Barnes went on to play for Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic after leaving Liverpool. He later became Celtic’s manager for roughly 8 months, as well as the manager of Jamaica and Tranmere Rovers, as he advocates for the representation of more Black coaches.
“We have to stop looking at what’s going on up above, stop saying that’s a representation of equality or what we can be. We have to change perceptions based on the experience of the average black person.” – John Barnes