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Barnes back from the wilderness

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Paul Fletcher | 14:04 UK time, Friday, 31 July 2009

It has been a long wait for Tranmere manager John Barnes.

Next Saturday his team will stride out at Huish Park, Yeovil for their opening fixture of the 2009-10 League one season.

According to my calculations it will be 3,469 days since Barnes last managed in a match in club football.

That game was Celtic's 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle - a result that sparked the now legendary headline 'Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious'.

Two days later Barnes was sacked, marking the beginning of a lengthy and unwanted tenure in the managerial wilderness.

Since leaving Celtic Park the man who reckons there's only one way to beat them, get round the back has worked as a pundit, hosted his own TV show, been an ambassador for Save the Children and waltzed his way through Strictly Come Dancing.

"It was a frustrating time but it's gone," Barnes told me of his time out of club management. "It took a long time but I'm back and it does not really matter."

John Barnes (right) and Jason McAteer are unveiled as the new management team at TranmereBut does he think that people will be surprised that a man who has 79 England caps and forged a reputation as one of the finest wide players of his generation, has re-entered management in the lower reaches of the Football League?

"I had previously tried to get in a lower level than this and couldn't, so maybe some people will feel it is too high," deadpanned the 45-year-old.

Besides, Barnes is no stranger to Prenton Park. He lived on the Wirral during his pomp as a star of the Liverpool side of the late 80s and early 90s.

Rovers would occasionally play home matches on Friday evening in those days and, every now and again, Barnes went along to watch. They were heady days for Tranmere, who reached the 2000 League Cup final and the last eight of the FA Cup in both 2000 and 2001.

"The desire and the intensity during those cup runs under John Aldridge - we have to aspire for those days to return," Barnes told me.

A laudable ambition but it will most definitely not be easy for Barnes, who took over at the club in mid-June, replacing Ronnie Moore.

Moore is an experienced and wily lower-league manager. He worked wonders on a shoestring at Rotherham and was minutes away from securing a play-off place for Tranmere last season.

Speaking with all the acquired wisdom of a man who has done the rounds, Moore observed after he was sacked that "it was a massive surprise to me - but the one thing you know as a manager is that you are going to get the sack sometime".

Barnes has nothing like Moore's knowledge of the lower leagues, nor experience of how to prosper on a shoestring budget - of hustling to bring in free transfers or pull off shrewd loan moves. Furthermore, Barnes took over at a club that needed to reduce its wage bill. Influential players such as Ben Chorley, Anthony Kay, Steven Jennings and Danny Coyne have left the club since the end of last season.

But Barnes is clearly not fazed by the size of the task facing him.

Back at the start of the decade I used to ghost write a column for Barnes. He always came across as an intelligent man with a strong self-belief and a crystal-clear awareness of what he wanted. I wondered whether his years out of management might have eroded his confidence but when I spoke to him about Tranmere, it was pretty obvious that nothing had changed. The sharp mind was also in evidence, with words like 'dogmatic' and 'utopian' popping up during our conversation.

Barnes had spent nine months as coach of Jamaica prior to his appointment at Tranmere but was clearly relishing a return to day-to-day involvement. The club have signed players since his arrival - Mark Allot, Alan Mahon, John Welsh and Paul McLaren on permanent deals with Luke Daniels and Shaleum Logan on loan - but Barnes' over-riding focus is on the training ground.

"There are other things to do which can take a lot of time but I am not interested in that," he told me.

"I'm trying to get the team to play in an organised, disciplined manner and with plenty of desire. That means spending time on the training field and leaving the office stuff to the chief executive and other people."

Barnes has been drilling into his squad the system he wants them to play, doing the same things over and over again. As he told me: "That can be quite repetitive and boring for the players but I make no apologies for it. If you are changing the system you play it is important that the players fully understand it."

Barnes won't be drawn on exactly what system his team will play. They will line up as a 4-4-2 but as the Rovers boss pointed out: "It is the workings of your formation that is your system - the angles you play, how you try to work the ball from the back and so on."

It is hard to imagine a side coached by Barnes playing a graceless, direct style and I imagine he will try to deploy attacking full-backs and ask his group of players to be able to adapt as the situation demands.

For Tranmere's sake I just hope that his players fully understand what he is teaching them. Barnes clearly has a deep understanding of tactics and can discuss them at length. I have never seen Barnes working with players on a training pitch but I guess the key is keeping it simple, ensuring the message is concisely delivered without overloading information. John Barnes was a huge success at Anfield

What's more, if Barnes is to succeed in management at a lower level I think it is crucial that he understands that some of the things that came naturally to him may lie beyond the scope of some of his squad. I'm sure that Barnes will tell you that he himself was no stranger to hard work as a player - indeed that it was part of the reason why he succeeded - but that is not necessarily the same thing.

Having said that, several interviews with various Tranmere players that I have seen have all talked about how much they are enjoying working with Barnes. Appointing Jason McAteer as his assistant seems like a good move. McAteer understands Tranmere and the division having been reserve team boss under Brian Little.

What's more, there is an undeniable realism to Barnes when he discusses management.

I asked him whether he was at Tranmere for the long haul.

"There are no long-term projects in football," he told me. "If you don't win matches you are out."

Barnes discovered that when he was sacked by Celtic just seven months into his first season in charge.

He has not set targets, focusing only on the opening game against Yeovil. "I have always felt that sometimes you cannot see the wood for the trees because you are looking so far ahead," said Barnes.

The 45-year-old is also adamant that last season means nothing - "We are starting afresh, that is the great thing about football".

But he is in no doubt that Tranmere can cause a few surprises in a division that is likely to be very competitive.

"I expect consistency and good performances - and wherever that takes us, that takes us," he said.

"But if we play with spirit, determination and discipline we can succeed."


  • Comment number 1.

    "But if we play with spirit, determination and discipline we can succeed." Worthy words John but as we stand on Tuesday morning we dont have any specialist centre backs available for Saturday.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why has Barnes not bought any central defenders? On Saturday we have an 18 yr-old left back, an 18 year-old youth team centre back, a 20 yr-old loanee right back and a 19yr-old loanee goalie.

    If any of those players gets injured we are screwed. As it stands, we don't have a proper team and JB and JMc have just bought a ramshackle collection of midfielders. In league one you need a strong base, which we had last year which this year, I just can't see. I hope he succeeds but I don't think that a footballing philosophy is as important at this level as a 20 goal-a-season striker and a solid defence (or any defence).

    We have seen pre-season that we are trying to play free-flowing football and I hope that it works.

    The difficulty for Barnes is that he is replacing a very popular "Tranmere man" in Moore who was almost very successful on the same budget. I hope he knows what he's let himself in for! Come on Barnesey lad- a cheeky bid of 45 million quid should do for John Terry and we'd be laughing!

  • Comment number 3.

    I am a local lad to Tranmere but from an early age decided to follow Liverpool (to the disgust of my Evertonian family). I used to go to Prenton Park quite a lot and was proud to call myself a Tranmere fan, although they were my second team. However, I now find myself disliking them as much as I do Everton. The fans seem totally unhappy unless they are spouting vitriol about one of their own or against there Merseyside "rivals". I do not envy Digger, who is up in my favourite 5 players of all time as to turn around the bitterness and doubt of the TRFC fans will be a bigger task than getting in the play offs. Good luck to them though, bigger and less hate filled crowds would definitely help their cause no end.
    Also Moore signed Allott who has already moved on after about 5 weeks to Chesterfield! Must have been for a night out in Birkenhead, that would do it for me!

  • Comment number 4.

    The vast majority of Tranmere Rovers fans were perfectly happy with Ronnie Moore and acknowledged his achievements last season. That he was sacked was a complete shock and that he was replaced by John Barnes raised all sorts of questions.

    1. Why John Barnes? No previous experience at managing in lower league football, his only previous club management ended in humiliiation for the club involved and this is a man who had applied for the Tranmere job before, probably on more than one occasion. Whilst he seems to have done a reasonable job at Jamaica, does this make him preferable to Ronnie Moore?

    2. Why now? As stated, Barnes had applied for the Tranmere job before. Peter Johnson, in his sacking of Moore, referred to the falling attendances at Tranmere but Tranmere had the second best home record in the division so this cannot be blamed on the manager.

    The only plausable explanation seems to be attempt by the returning chairman, Peter Johnson, to glam the club up in an attempt to sell it.

    Perhaps by appointing an ex-Liverpool man this may raise attendances at Prenton Park. It could work but it has not on the previous 4 or 5 times this has been attempted. And even if it did work, these fans would only stay to watch winning football.

    And so to football...Barnes has made it quite clear how Tranmere are going to play. A narrow midfield will play possession football, allowing the full backs to over lap creating width. However, during his opening press conference, Barnes stated "There are no bad players, despite what fans may think" (At this point, McAteer guffawed into his microphone). Barnes implied that as long as players had simple roles, a team could be succesful.

    From last season Tranmere have lost Bas Savage due to injury, Ben Chorley has chosen to move back down south, Antony Kay has left for a better contract, Ryan Shotton has returned to Stoke after his loan and Andrew Taylor has been sold. Two players, Danny Coyne and Steven Jennings agreed new deals only to join other clubs after, twice, Barnes announced in the press that they were definitely signing that day.

    Strangely, one player Barnes has retained is Ian Moore, the son of the previous manager. He also brought in Alan Mahon who was lined up before Barnes' appointment anyway. Mark Allot who was brought in has now departed, which is fair enough if the manager does not fancy him. We have also brough in midfielders Jon Welsh and Paul McLaren and loaned Logan and goalkeeper Daniels.

    Our most influential player, Goodison is suspended from the first game as is the versatile Edds and it looks like Barnett will be injured.

    So Tranmere go into there first match of the season with this side:

    1. Daniels - a 21 year old goalkeeper loaned from another club.
    2. Logan - a 20 year old full back loaned from another club.
    3. Cresswell - a 19 year old left back who has made about 10 appearances for the club.
    4. Ashton Taylor - an 18 year old centre half, who is very promising but has played only once for the club.
    5. A.N. other centre half - Barnes told us not to worry as he would be loaning more defenders but now apparently these players are not coming so who knows.
    6. Jon Welsh - who has played very little football over the last few years
    7. Paul McLaren
    8. Chris Shuker - a player who can still make things happen but has been sapped of his pace by injuries.
    9. Ian Thomas-Moore
    10. Terry Gornell/ Craig Curran - two promising 19 year old strikers still finding their way in league football.
    11. Alan Mahon - our most talented player but has a history of being injury prone.

    We have no other senior professionals to call on for the first game and as you can see, we have still to fill a position. Barnes is relying very strongly on young players who are certainly talented but will also require nurturing and will make errors.

    Over preseason, we have passed the ball for the sake of it, regardless of whether the receiver is in a better position, playing team mates into trouble and putting ourselves under pressure. We have also be bullied by more physical teams and given the ball away around our own area. We have moved the ball too slowly and allowed teams to simply sit back and hit us on the break.

    Of course, I am only a fan and perhaps Barnes has some miracle up his sleeve but if he has, he is disguising it phenomenally well.

  • Comment number 5.

    A complete generalisation AzyLFC. Ever tried not hating anyone? Liverpool and Everton are completely irrelevant to me as a fan and I hope they both do well.

    I resent the Sky Sports created belief that you can watch a team on telly and believe that you are an ardent footy fan, because it will destroy teams in our position.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have really happy memories of watching John Barnes play for England when I was a kid and his rap on World In Motion for Italia 90 still sends shivers up my spine.
    He was a fantastic player, but I don't think he can cut it as a manager. This has already been proven at Celtic. I really wish him the best of luck, but I cannot see him being successful and reckon he should stick to punditry.

  • Comment number 7.

    Brilliant unbiased article! Keep it up mate and you'll go far

  • Comment number 8.

    When I was a student at Liverpool University a few years ago I used to go and watch Tranmere as an alternative to the hypocrisy and ridiculous cost of the premiership. It was so much more fun than watching an Everton or a Liverpool game. I never once had the sense that there was hatred towards these two 'superior clubs', just a friendly rivalry.

    As a result I always look out for Tranmere's results, but I feel an error has been made in getting rid of Ronnie Moore. He has great experience in the lower leagues and was steadily building towards something. I just hope Barnes second coming in club management is more successful than his first, though judging by some of the comments on here it looks like I will be heading down the bookies to put money on a Rovers relegation.

  • Comment number 9.

    In addition to my previous comments (#6), I really hope he doesn't where gloves and tights when he's on the sideline.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think AZYLFC above is quite correct. Tranmere fans, and I know this is a generalisation, seem to have a huge chip on their shoulder these days. They wear their "supporting a team outside the premiership" badge of honour zealously. I also think comments like CHINAWHITETRFC's actually support this viewpoint. Fortunately, he supports a team that is undersupported, rather then one that is over supported, ergo tickets are readily available. Some fans of 'bigger' clubs do not have this luxury and despite being on season ticket watiing lists for years, still have to rely on Sky (and certain internet sites) to watch games live as tickets are scarce.

    As for the football side of the debate, I think Tranmere are in real reouble with Barnes,. I hope I am wrong, but teams at the level of tranmere need to be very good to play the passing game that Barnes seems to be attempting. With the players Tranmere has, they will be bullied by the vast majority of teams in the league and will suffer as a result.

    On the centre half issue, I am surprised Barnes hasnt tried to get Paul Linwood back at the club from Chester. He would be ideal, he has the ability and the experience. I also believe he is a good mate of Jason (nice hair) McAteer.

  • Comment number 11.

    RE: Agreeing with AZYLFC

    I think you'll find that most fans have a chip on their shoulder about something. Most people do? Why should Tranmere fans be different to Liverpool fans in that aspect just because they support another club?

    It also has nothing to do with fortune who you support. It is a choice based on fashion and convenience.

  • Comment number 12.

    ahmedjeffersontyke wrote:
    I have really happy memories of watching John Barnes play for England when I was a kid


    How can anyone have happy memories of watching John Barnes play for England, he lived on that goal against Brazil for years and somehow managed to gain all those caps without ever performing for England as he did for Liverpool

  • Comment number 13.

    Id love to see these Liverpool fans reaction if they got relegated to the Championship and then stayed there for 8 years. This club should have been back in the second tier at the first time of asking on 2001/02 with the strongest squad in the division, but for the appointment of a rookie manager who was a favourite at a Merseyside neighbour (Dave Watson). It is that which concerns us with Barnes as much as his record at Parkhead.

    Couple that with the fact that Ronnie Moore was unjustifiably sacked, it was always going to be difficult for him to win the fans over. But we are not looking to spout vitriol at one of our own like the guy above says, Barnes will get the full backing of the fans.

    The only problem is, while he talks a good game, were yet to see significant steps on the pitch. Yes we have seen signs of the keep the ball and play the simple pass philosophy something that is a far cry from seeing Ben Chorley panic and hoof it 80 yards but as has been mentioned, the lack of defenders may haunt us in the coming months.
    With the number of good players leaving, it was always going to be a hard task for him, but he has brought in quality players in Mahon, McLaren and Welsh, he just hasnt strengthened in the area that needs it most. Will this cost us? Only time will tell.

    At least its never boring as a Tranmere fan how many people found their club on eBay in the close-season? Its going to be another rollercoaster season whether we enjoy the ride remains to be seen!

    Excellent blog as always Paul keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 14.

    Barnes hasn't been given a chance to prove himself as a manager. Seven months at a Champions Leagues club is no apprenticeship. Perhaps Tranmere is too big a bite for him but I'm sure he'll give it a good shot. Anyway, he's here now so let's all get behind him. Sniping at him won't serve anyone, least of all Tranmere.

  • Comment number 15.

    12. 3-1inyoursuperbowl

    "without ever performing for England as he did for Liverpool"

    Blimey, you've just described Steven Gerrard.

  • Comment number 16.

    #12 superbowl:

    You are entitled to your opinion, but that for me is a happy memory as is the cross he supplied for Linekar against Argentina in 86. They are some of my earliest memories of football and very happy ones at that. I cannot remember each and every game and admit that he did falter for England at times, particularly towards the end of his career, and remember one match where he was booed for his performance.

  • Comment number 17.


    Thats ok, as you were obviously young at the time you wouldn't remember much about his performances for england, but believe me his good performances were few and far between and it was a sorce of bewilderment and frustration that he continued to be picked.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    As a Tranmere fan, I'm fairly pessimistic about the upcoming season. I'm prepared to give Barnes a chance, even though I think his appointment was a bad decision, and as always I'll be fully supporting the superwhitearmy. With the budget we've got, and the amount of players that have left, I think Ronnie would have struggled to get us higher than mid-table mediocrity anyway, but for Barnes to do any better would be a big surprise. Looks like we'll be stuck in league one for a few more seasons at least, no matter who's at the helm... but I'd be over the moon if Barnes proves me wrong!

  • Comment number 20.

    A ball has not even been kicked in the season and the majority of you are slagging off your team and manager. What happened to supporting your football club? Seems most of you are just waiting for the team to fail!

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.


    You are talking rubbish. Racism? Not at all. Barnes was a disaster at Celtic because he isn't a good manager. Simple as that.

    As for Ince? I think he is a disgrace for suggesting he was denied the Wolves job because he is black. I'm surprised Wolves didn't do him for slander.

  • Comment number 23.


    Come Saturday at 3pm, Tranmere fans will get behind the lads.

    However, on an internet site set up for people to give their opinions - the idea that fans should avoid criticism is ridiculous.

    Nobody has slagged off the team - they don't pick themselves. Nobody has slagged off John Barnes, we have simply raised the questions about his management that no amount of reminiscing about Liverpool performances and England caps answers.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tranmere signed Mark Allot only to release him a few weeks later after sacking Ronnie Moore.

    I am personally expecting Barnes to do badly at Tranmere. He won't do as well as Ronnie 'Hoof' Moore did with that squad. Will take time for them to learn how to play football again, not hoofball.

  • Comment number 26.


    It's not racism at all, he was poor at Celtic. As for Paul Ince he did well at MK Dons with a lot of money behind him and struggled at Blackburn because he is not a good manager. He was a big-headed, egotistical player and he canntot cut it as a manager.

  • Comment number 27.

    good luck to him. it's always difficult for ex-players who have had stellar careers to come into management. this is a chance for Barnes to re-establish himself after having struggled in his managerial career so far.

  • Comment number 28.


    Nice try son ;)

    But no cigar.

  • Comment number 29.

    after reading some of the comments on here i have just registered to write on this blog. digger has only been here 5 minutes, give the guy a chance, the season hasn't even started yet! I know Mr tranmere aka ronnie moore was doing a decent job and was unfortunate to get the boot but he's gone now and we all need to get behind Digger, Trigger and all the team and give them time to get used to the new system. I've supported Tranmere since the late eighties and remember those fab times in the early 90's when we scored alot of our goals from crosses from the overlapping full-backs - tank thomas and ian nogsy nolan. Lets hope barnesy can get us playing like that and who knows what this season will bring

    good luck for the new season jb.

  • Comment number 30.

    Let's put things into perspective here. Leaving John Barnes out of the picture for a moment Tranmere will struggle badly this season for several reasons:-

    1. We have lost almost our entire first team from last season.

    2. Our manager has been sacked

    3. Lorraine Rogers (Chairperson) has moved on.

    4. Peter Johnson has returned as Chairman.

    5. The current squad, with the exception of one or two players, is very poor to say the least.

    6. Attendences will be even lower this season because of all of the above.

    With all these factors taken into consideration even Rafa, Moysie, Fergie and co. would have no chance of succeeding with this setup so I feel for John Barnes because he's on a hiding to nothing.

    Being a Tranmere fan I am gutted at the current situation we find ourselves in. I watched the game at the weekend against Shrewsbury and it was awful - I really am worried about the season ahead.

  • Comment number 31.

    #23 CrosbySWA and #30 nermina - well said. #29 fluffy-rover, don't think we'll be seeing days like those again for some time unfortunately. Back in those days we had money to spend and a great manager, but fingers crossed for this season eh. COME ON ROVERS!

  • Comment number 32.

    2 words. Frank Worthington.

  • Comment number 33.

    Nermina - not sure I agree with many of your points.

    1. We have replaced most of last seasons first team (with the exception of our centre halves) whose to say they won't perform better than last years crop, don't hear too many people wanting Sonko or O'Callaghan back.
    2. Just because we have a new manager when the last one was doing perfectly well doesn't automatically spell disaster, sometimes the grass is greener.
    3. What's that got to do with team perfomance?
    4. What's that got to do with team perfomance?
    5. Totally disagree, can't remeber the last time we had so much ability in the middle of the park, the strikers are identical to last year, Cresswell and Taylor look very promising at the back, I could go on.
    6. The effect of all of this on attendance is a moot point. It is Mr Johnson's opinion that Barnes will have a positive effect on revenue. He has made a few more quid in his time than me and I would wager you Nermina so whose to question his business acumen. After all he has got us on the front page of the BBC Sport web page again this summer, can't recall the last time that happened and there is no such thing as bad publicity they say.

    All that said, I am concerned about how we are to fare this season I accept we may get bullied, we may make mistakes at the back through inexperience, have a threadbare squad and are at the mercy of injuries. Our saving grace is going to be quality football on the floor as we all love to see it, it's a gamble but if it works I think people will come back to watch and we can turn this current trend of negativity around. I want to see us win, I want to see us promoted but I'll settle for an enjoyable experience on a Saturday afternoon with some good play so we can take the morale victory over poorer teams who will inevitable come and try and out muscle us. I think Barnes will have a good stab at achieving that so he gets my vote, cheer up guys, you could be Chester fans.

    P.S. Good luck and all the best for the future Ronnie.

  • Comment number 34.

    GetRoverIt I have to disagree and I fully back Nermina's viewpoint here. the squad is threadbare and very weak. With Allott amongst our numbers I would have agreed that our midfield had plenty of strength compared to last year but now with him gone too we're back down to being on a par at best. Mahon has been too injury prone since he last left us to be considered a dead cert in our team each week, Welsh doesn't seem a patch on Jennings and Shuker is not the player he once was.

    Up front we are toothless - with Bas out til February and Greenacre gone only Ian (Thomas-)Moore knows where the net is. I don't think he's capable of getting more than 10-15 goals in a season.

    Our defence though is a shambles - yes Cresswell and Taylor are "promising" but they've got little to no experience and we seem to be relying on them as first choice! Experienced strike forces will tear us to shreds.

    Barnes - no matter how intelligent he seems to be - has not addressed the basic needs of a League 1 team. He seems a nice enough fella but he seems to be appointed as a fall-guy as the Rovers head full on towards oblivion.

    We are going down.

  • Comment number 35.

    "Our saving grace is going to be quality football on the floor as we all love to see it, it's a gamble but if it works I think people will come back to watch and we can turn this current trend of negativity around"

    Passing football is not inherently attractive. It needs to be quick with good movement and understanding between the players. Tapping the ball around outside your own penalty area will not attract new supporters.

    Similarly, people are snobbish about long balls. If Michael Carrick plays a ball, it is a long pass. If Ben Chorley does it, it is a hoof.

    Tranmere had a fairly good balance last season and crowds fell. Neither Liverpool or Everton played particularly expansive football but people still want to watch (in the pubs as well as at the stadium) because that is what is fashionable.

  • Comment number 36.

    What would more people pay to see... a team playing good football or a team getting relative success but not particularly attractive to watch?

    I like what I hear from Barnes about the style he wants, but then I am trying to look for positives here, as I saw him first hand, supporting a team against Celtic... they looked completely out of sorts! Worrying stuff to be honest.

    As for the comment that Tranmere fans have chips on their shoulders... welcome to football... it's rare to meet a supporter that doesn't... ever heard a Liverpool fan discussing Manchester United. Tranmere fans will be used to getting looked down upon by arrogant supporters from Liverpool and Everton (amongst others), and many of these rarely actually attend games... it's hard to take!

    Anyway, come on you Rovers... keep the faith!

  • Comment number 37.

    28. At 10:50am on 04 Aug 2009, nottinghamshire_red wrote:


    Nice try son ;)

    But no cigar.


    Fair enough! referred anyway, no doubt the Celtic comment. There goes my trusted status! All the best!

  • Comment number 38.

    Didn't realise Bas was out for that long, really can't see where the goals are going to come from. Moore's good for a few but the midfielders are going to have to chip in with a fair few goals and I can't see that happening. With the lack of goals up front we'll have to be very tight at the back and I can't see that happening either. Maybe not Barnes' fault because he's done well to get the players he's already got in, but with this squad the play-offs, which we should be aiming for, look out of reach. Let's hope that's not the case.

  • Comment number 39.

    truth: moore got sacked as he was in danger of taking tranmere up. money talks: higher wages, no increase in attendances. barnes is perfect for the chairmans's project.

  • Comment number 40.

    Are you aka Mr Johnson?

    Your comments about losing nearly all our first team and manager is not significant beggars belief. If Liverpool lost Rafa, Reyna, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Agger, Alonso, Benayoun and Mascherano there would be uproar amongst the Red's fans.

    John Barnes will need the financial backing of the Chairman and he wont get that with Peter Johnson back at the helm. Losing Ms Rogers is significant because she 'persuaded' PJ to part with some of his well earned money to fund players over the past few seasons to improve the team. Now that she has gone PJ will keep his hands firmly in his pocket.

    I also take it that you didn't go to the Shrewsbury game? Every time they had a set piece they looked like they were going to score - the defence was all over the place. They hit the woodwork twice and also our keeper made a couple of tasty saves. Notwithstanding, the goal Mahon scored was a cross-come-shot which eluded everyone and, besides that, did we have any other attempts on their goal?

    Wake up and smell the coffee. We are in dire trouble and nothing will change until the club finds a new owner who has money to spend on the team. Sadly, I don't think that will happen in time to help Barnesy.

  • Comment number 41.

    Probably the worst manager in the world, slightly ahead of Alan Ball and Ruud Gullit ?

  • Comment number 42.

    Barnes, Platt, Robson would be my top 3 worst 'great players, awful managers' ever.

  • Comment number 43.

    Molby signed for Swansea in steak.

    Barnes has signed up for a hamper.

    And like the turkey, it'll be stuffed by Christmas. Then they'll bring in Ricky Tomlinson.
    Johnson certainly has a sense of humour!

  • Comment number 44.

    I just hope Barnes doesn't go with the same formation from his time at Celtic. For a former world-class winger to select a 4-man midfield, none of whom played any wider than the centre circle, I think is just plain weird! And if it didn't work for one of the two big dogs in what is/was a terrible Scottish league, it ain't going to work down South. Hope you've learned from your mistakes JB!!

  • Comment number 45.

    #42 nottinghamshire_red

    Could you throw Gazza into the mix? He tried his hand with Kettering Town although his personal problems had a lot to do with his failure.
    Paul Merson (hardly a great I know, but not bad in his day)?
    Tony Adams has to be up there, again he wasn't my favourite player, but I admit he was good.

  • Comment number 46.

    Now then - thanks for your comments.

    I've been a little surprised by the reaction from Tranmere fans, who generally seem to be on a bit of a downer even before a ball has been kicked in anger.

    Indeed, there doesn't seem to be much faith at all in Barnes' managerial capabilities. I too have reservations but I think he should be judged on results and in the context of the limitations in which he is working.

  • Comment number 47.

    It's more the situation we find our club in than having a go at John Barnes. But it felt like we were getting somewhere last season and just when we might have got a sniff at promotion the rug's been swept from under our feet and we've been left with a poor squad, no money and an inexperienced management team.

  • Comment number 48.

    "How can anyone have happy memories of watching John Barnes play for England, he lived on that goal against Brazil for years and somehow managed to gain all those caps without ever performing for England as he did for Liverpool"
    This comment is so lazy and typical of uninformed so called fans, who read about the game in the paper, and dont watch it.

    I suggest anybody who thinks that John Barnes did not perform for England, watch the DVD "Gary Linekers 48 England goals". Or just ask Gary how many goals he would have scored without Barnes in the team.
    Peter Beardsley received a lot of plaudits for his partnership with Lineker, but it was John Barnes who provided most of the assists.

    John Barnes was a fine footballer, one of the best players ever to wear a Liverpool shirt, and did so in what is widely viewed as the best Liverpool team ever. He played his England career in a team focussed on supplying the ball to Lineker, unlike his role at Liverpool where he was free to do whatever he wanted.

    Good Luck Digger! I hope you can show these ungrateful Tranmere, so call fans, how wrong they are.

  • Comment number 49.

    Nermina, no I'm not Peter Johnson.

    I don't believe you can compare us to Liverpool losing the core of their team as Paul Fletcher states above we are working within a very different context.

    I think Ms Rogers did a phenomenal job for TRFC and I am sad that she has chosen to stand aside, but I think Mr Johnson is his own man and capable of choosing when and where to spend his money, I don't agree that Ms Rogers was the reason we have previously had more to spend. I think the fall in atendances has hit our spending power.

    I did go to the Shrewsbury game and happened to think we were terrible and if we play regularly like that I will not be entertained, we will not be successful and Barnes will not remain manager for very long.

    One bad performance shouldn't condemn the whole idea however. I am merely trying to be as optimistic as I can, I maintain we have quality in our midfield, the strikers who managed to score enough goals to get us within minutes of the play offs are all still with us and our defence is a work in progress, all the young players look excellent to me and with Goodison pointing them in the right direction I'm optimistic that we will improve in this area - as clearly we need to do. We also need to keep our fingers crossed, pray and take up voodoo to keep injuries at bay.

    And finally....I think we are a bit guilty as a set of fans of having ideas above our station. We have an average gate for our league and have no divine right to go up, while many still bemoan poor Ronnies departure I have accepted it and feel we need to embrace what we have, love it as with all things Tranmere and will it to succeed.

  • Comment number 50.

    The main issue with the appointment of Barnes is weve replaced a manager with a low profile but highly-regarded at this level (Moore) with someone who is very high profile but has done nothing to earn a reputation as a good League One manager (Barnes).

    The only difference between Barnes and all those other managers who have failed to find a club during the last decade is his celebrity. Id take someone who is good at their job over someone with a public profile but unproven any day of the week. Barnes celebrity might give him contacts in the game, but the question is whether they are the correct ones for Tranmere.

    Barnes might be able to get the likes of Rafa, Ferguson and Wenger to answer the phone, but do they really have the ability to provide us with the players we need anyway.

    The problem this summer isnt the players Barnes has brought in. McLaren and Mahon are fans favourites returning. Welch looks like a good purchase whilst Daniels is a promising keeper we might well see in the Premiership soon. Weve got the likes of Collister and Taylor coming through from the youth. The players weve added to the squad seem like a large positive.

    Its the players we havent added to the squad which is the problem. Our back four contains only one experienced player, and we have no real cover for any position (aside from a central midfielder trying to fit in). Add to that two goalies learning their trade and its difficult to see how our defence will cope since they are practically all still learning their trade. Admittedly that did Leicester little harm last season, but we dont have their quality across the rest of the pitch.

    This is the problem I have with Barnes. He has the contacts, in terms of both managers and coaches, to bring in promising talent on loan or released by bigger clubs. But we seem to be relying too much on such players in defence anyway. We need some experienced players adding leadership and knowledge to the side. Were only going to get them from other League One clubs and I wonder how much Barnes knows about whats out there. MacAteer will have more knowledge, but he was part of the Little shambles which saw us struggle to attract players to the club so hardly has the track record of signing good players of someone like Ronnie Moore.

    Its only four days until the start of the season and weve only got one central defender available for Saturday a 17 year old who wasnt part of our squad last season. If we bring in two experienced centre halves this week, things will look good and we can look forward to the season. But at the moment its looking like a bit of a shambles. I doubt we would be saying that if wed kept Ronnie in charge someone who knows the division inside out and what its like to work on a limited budget.

    Whether Barnes is the right manager for Tranmere is always questionable given were yet to see what he can do for this. But its certain this summer wasnt the right time for him to come.

  • Comment number 51.

    Paul, you make a very valid point, and we will judge Barnes on results and we will give him time and more importantly support!

    However, how optimistic would you be about your teams chances when 4 days prior to the seasons curtain raiser you have one available centre back who is a young (albeit evidently capable) lad yet to make his first-team bow?

    Oh, and torontored, us ungrateful?? How about the club being taken over by multi-millionaires and us moaning about them every weekno, wait, thats your lot! Then how would you feel if they sacked Rafa for not winning the league and put Pat Nevin in charge? (Great winger in his day, but more experience of TV punditry than management sound familiar?)

  • Comment number 52.

    Toronto Red

    "John Barnes was a fine footballer, one of the best players ever to wear a Liverpool shirt, and did so in what is widely viewed as the best Liverpool team ever. He played his England career in a team focussed on supplying the ball to Lineker, unlike his role at Liverpool where he was free to do whatever he wanted.

    Good Luck Digger! I hope you can show these ungrateful Tranmere, so call fans, how wrong they are."

    I totally agree with your first paragraph but in a way this is where this thread has gone wrong. I thought we were talking about John Barnes and the challenge he faces being the manager of Tranmere.

    It is not a question of being ungrateful. John Barnes has not got a starting eleven for when the season starts in 4 days and that is worrying because every game is vital.

    You criticise another poster for being uninformed and watching the game on TV. Yet would you even be commenting if John Barnes was not an ex-Liverpool player and if was say - Les Ferdinand taking over Tranmere? Have you seen anything of Tranmere either before or since Barnes has taken over?

  • Comment number 53.

    Paul Fletcher - you misinterpret the worries we have regarding the direction of our club as worries we have with the manager. This close season has been nothing short of comedy show down at Prenton Park with the club seemingly more desperate to pin down paragraphs in the tabloids than a squad of players. I do not blame Barnes for this but the board.

    Perhaps you as an outsider to Tranmere looking in see no reason to worry but the fact remains we lost each and every one of our top 5 players from last season, our 6th best (Savage) is out til the New Year. Our 7th best (Goodison) has only just shown up for training a week before the season amid rumours that he too wants out.

    We have been promised squad reinforcements but after an initial burst of action - and 3 promising signings made in Mahon, McLaren, and Welsh - everything fizzled out. Barnes initially promised us "a few more permanent players bolstered with loans", (amid rumours we were due to sign a number of Premiership calibre superstars) which soon became "a few loans to bolster us", and now - with a few days left before the season - after selling one of our most promsing youngsters (Taylor to Sheff Utd) and releasing one of our new signings (Allott) "to free up a wage" it seems Barnes only has enough funds for "one loan centre back!!"

    Eh!? Where's all the money gone?? Why can we now only afford one loan!?!

    Our likely defence to trot out against yeovil on Saturday will be so inexperienced even Alex Ferguson or Roffa Benitez combined won't be able to stop them shipping a hatful of goals. Barnes doesn't stand a chance.

  • Comment number 54.

    Lorraine going is more of a limbo move than either a positive or a negative. Negative cause she kept things going and us stable during the years when the investment dried up, however with regards to commercialization and marketing and finding ways to get bums on seats she simply had no clue whatsoever, which is why PJ has brought in two ex-Liverpool stars of the 90s, thinking plastic armchair Kopites are going to come and watch us. It's a gamble.

    Barnes has some good technical players in the middle of the park, but in defence we're way short, have lost last season's player of the year Ben Chorley to Orient, Ian Goodison is suspended for Yeovil, and so is Gareth Edds, so it looks like we're going to be shipping a couple.

    Plus our forward line looks weak without the underrated Bas to hold it up. Gornell's got some potential but Curran while a grafter up front doesn't really possess enough skill. So we're relying on Moore till Feb.

    In a way this budget is not what you would want a guy who failed at Celtic to get. There's been rumours about Fowler and investment all summer and that it's happening later on in the season, but I just don't see it. We may have to struggle on valiantly and I would be surprised if these LFC tellyclappers come down to Prenton Park just cause Barnes happens to be the manager of us!

    It's going to be a tough season.

    PS.. the Liverpool fans in here and their dumb comments, you're clearly bothered by us, when you should be more bothered by the fact Man Utd are about to kick you off your perch.

  • Comment number 55.

    nottinghamshire_red, I'd have Tony Adams in there. Portsmouth would be playing Championship football if they hadn't sacked him.

  • Comment number 56.

    Oldham fan, did you enjoy the way we hoofed the ball along the deck at your place in March?

  • Comment number 57.

    SpitalTRFC - where has the money gone?

    In addition to your point that Chorley, Kay, Jennings, Shotton and Coyne are off the wage bill and we have sold Taylor. We have also lost Chris Greenacre, John Achterberg, Eddy Sonko, Adnan Ahmed, Danny Holmes off the wage bill.

    Also Goodison and Moore have resigned on reduced terms.

  • Comment number 58.

    I have no problems with what JB wants to achieve, a chance to add the managerial aspect to his profile to take him the next step up the ladder to a top Championship or Premiership club. The only way he can achieve this is through the success of Tranmere Rovers Football Club, and as a fan I think his and our ambitions are perfectly matched. I was tired of the unattractive football we played under Moore, but appreciated the fact that it was at times effective. The problem I have at the minute is that the team is not complete yet we have had plenty of time to prepare. But as the team is not yet complete how can we judge??

    If we had a mixture of the players JB has brought in (Mahon, Mclaren in particular) last year I believe we would have gone to Scunthorpe safely in the play offs, dare I say it maybe even challenging for the second automatic spot. We lacked the flair to turn draws into wins but had a strong backbone and physical presence that you need to get out of this division. Look at the teams that have gone up recently, all could play when they needed to, but more importantly bully and fight when under pressure. If Ben Chorley (who only left because nobody contacted him whilst MOORE was still in charge), Shotton and Tony Kay were still here everybody would be predicting a top 4 finish.

    Barnes has looked at a few trialists like Abbey, Hanson etc, and if their not good enough, why waste what little resources we have on them. I dont want to be the next Luton, Oldham, Darlington, Stockport, Wrexham, Southampton etc etc and being faced with the bleak prospect of having no club.
    JB has repeatedly stated we need 2 defenders, so he is trying to address the problem. Its unlucky Skirtel got injured so as to force Liverpool to keep hold of Kelly (also their lack of English players in champions league etc) and the momentum of Shotton to Stokes first team. Two decent loans, one of which must have league 1 experience and Ill be happy on the way down to Yeovil.

    Judge Digger not after Saturday, but after the first 6 game.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good luck Tranmere next season. Hopefully Barnes works out for you. I wouldn't worry too much about what happened at Celtic - it wasn't just him responsible for that and every manager needs time. His knowledge of the game is generally good - he just needs the fans to get behind him.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm surprised that you're surprised about our reaction Paul. We replaced an experienced, successful manager with a completely untried one. Great player, but does John Barnes realistically even know where Yeovil is?!

    He does, however, talk a very good game and as you said is a very pleasant, articulate, knowledgeable man.

    I really feel for him beacause I think we've lost our 8 best players- Coyne, Chorley, Shotts, Greenacre, Kay, Jennings, Taylor and Savage (til February). At the moment we don't know why the complete lack of adequate replacements is his fault or the chairmans and the current "team" is a shambles.

    Currently, if he keeps this team in the league he will have done a decent job come May.

    Some of the more impressionable fans amongst us will not tolerate Digger and Trigger dragging us into a relegation battle and his reputation will be worse off for it.

    Hopefully he will pull something out in the next few days but we simply don't have enough footballers to function as a football club, no matter how good the tactics are.

  • Comment number 61.

    Paul, please do not making excuses already for Mr Barnes, he's the kind of guy that'll have them stoked up when it all turns sour.
    He has mumped and moaned for years over not bing offered a managerial post after mucking up my club Celtic.
    He had big money to spend and spent it badly (look up Rafael Scheidt)his record was awful for Celtic manager 65% of games played won.
    He has now taken on this role knowing full well the lack of resources, state of playing staff and everything else that comes with the job. Let's watch and see...anything that keeps him off the tv, his presenting stint on Channel 5 was a joke!

  • Comment number 62.

  • Comment number 63.

    It's interesting that you ghost-wrote a column for Barnes. How does that exactly work? Did he give you a summary of what he thought and you put it into words, or was it just your words and thoughts? In either case, I bet he got paid more than you!

  • Comment number 64.

    LordtoonRover - correct Barnes HAS been saying "we need two defenders". There was even a promise of a goalie and a "few others on permanent and loan deals" (July 16th) after we sold Taylor to Sheff Utd. Yet the only other new comer to the keeper since then is Logan at right back. And now this last week all of a sudden we can only afford the one - on loan - to play alongside our rookie centre back at Yeovil and then then ageing legs of Goodison when he's back from suspension/fit enough to play.

    I strongly believe that Barnes is operating with his hands tied behind his back here at the minute, and every week the board make that job a little bit tougher for him. THEY are the ones that should be getting judged not the manager. Barnes has clearly been told money has been available early on, and then they've gone back on their word.

    Surely even Barnes could have seen that if the signing of Mahon on a lucrative contract - 3 year!! unheard of at Tranmere recently - would wipe out his entire transfer budget when the rest of the team is so weak, it wasn't the best move to complete...!?!

    Abbey is a good player at this level and would have done a job on Saturday. But we released him from his trial, seemingly when we'd had no real desire to use him other than to make up numbers in the friendlies, as we "couldn't afford to offer him a contract". If we can't afford a guy who's spent his entire life in the bottom 2 divisions, what hope have we got?

  • Comment number 65.

    Teddy the Confused Bear - rest assured that Barnes got paid more than me. I can absolutely guarantee it. Basically, I would call him once a week and having got hold of him (as with all sports people this can prove very tricky) I would ask him questions for 15-20 minutes, obtaining his opinions about various topical matters. I would tape the interview, transcribe it and then write a flowing column based entirely on his answers and opinions.

    lubohenke1967 - Dear me, wouldn't want you to think I was making excuses. However, I do think he must be given a chance to prove himself.

  • Comment number 66.

    So how long until Barnes gets fired? Managers have it or they dont. Barnes hasn;t got it.

  • Comment number 67.

    John barnes as manager of tranmere? Great all the people who are having a go before he's even started - thank goodness you are not the manager. I understand its difficult for some people to be optimistic and give people a second chance.

  • Comment number 68.

    Crosby SWA.
    You are quite right, I know nothing of the situation at Tranmere, aside from what I have read in this blog, and from commentors on it. However my point was quite specifically about the contempt shown for Barnes England contribution, and the willingness by many fans to write him off before a ball has been kicked.
    Clearly he has a team selection issue, he isnt the first and he wont be the last, but the assumption seems to be that he is unaware, or worse, utterly intransigent. Thats just plain silly, and you can bet he isnt simply crossing his fingers.

  • Comment number 69.

    IMO it will end in tears. "The guvnor" will return to being a football pundit al la Paul Merson.

  • Comment number 70.

    John Barnes is going to be GOOD for Tranmere Rovers, bless him!
    He is bright, KNOWS he is replacing a favoured man with the fans....
    he is no fool. He has lived in the Wirral and knows his way around Merseysiders.
    He's no Mourinho but he brings a sexy new spirit to the team - he will win the players over and they will win for the fans.
    OK all you downers.... no more carping about Birkenhead.
    I think we should ask Patricia Routledge to put on her Hyacinth Bucket hat and come and cheer them on....she was born in Birkenhead....enough said. All the very best to J.B. and the team.

  • Comment number 71.

    #69 "The Guvnor" is the self given moniker of Paul Ince and not John Barnes.

  • Comment number 72.

    Saw Goodison at Colwyn Bay last night - it's hard to judge him in the reserve team playing a Unibond league side but he looked somewhat off the pace, and some way from full match-fitness. His superior quality was obvious and maybe he was just being lazy because he felt himself above the others, but he often got caught in possession and had to win the ball back (which he normally did, to be fair). I really hope he is ready for the first team by the Gills game. I hope his attitude is right as well, I remember well the two-footed lunge that got him sent off when we were comfortable against Hereford (i think?) which took him out of the rest of the season (and the first game of this one). He really has to cut that sort of thing out of his game.

  • Comment number 73.

    Yeah he probably was being a bit lazy, difficult to get up for a game like that though I guess. That challenge against Hereford was ridiculous, completely unnecessary. May have been the difference, along with Bas' injury, between 6th and 7th spot. I used to love Goodison and he's still our best defender, but what I've seen of him lately he looks a bit more sloppy/reckless than he used to. I don't get to many games these days so maybe that's a bit unfair but it's the impression I've got recently.

  • Comment number 74.

    Strange appointment. Failed miserably at Celtic and had "quality" players to choose from. The inverted comma's being the fact that the players were quality as far as the SPL is concerned. Put them elsewhere and they aren't that great. Barne's reign will be ill-fated, and I expect him to be gone before Christmas.

  • Comment number 75.

    I hope barnes does well for his sake. I can just see most of you wanting him to fail just to prove your predictions. Even if he does well, you'll still find something to slag him off.

    I think he has picked a hard job specially when the club has a massive chip on its shoulders and no patience and no money.

  • Comment number 76.

    I don't think Barnes has the interpersonal and man management skills to be an effective manager.
    Watched him for many years at Watford and he remains our best ever player. However, if you read his autobiography you get a flavour of how he thinks, and there is an understated arrogance which grates a bit. This may sound odd, but as someone who works in human communications he speaks too quickly and therefore comes across as intense, injecting a none too relaxed dynamic into the conversation.
    I'm often wrong but I can't see it working.

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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