I was so tempted to ape the feel of the misleading headline that first brought this story to my attention: “John Barnes set for Rovers Role”. He’s taking over Blackburn? I thought. Ah… (after clicking on the link) …Tranmere Rovers.
So when it came time for my own sensationalist slant on things, how about: John Barnes To Return To Liverpool!
No. I couldn’t do that to you. I’ll put Merseyside and a question mark in the title just to be safe.
Still, there is a sentimental tingling attached to the idea of the former Merseyside hero returning to the Liverpool area, yes?
Tranmere sacked manager Ronnie Moore on Friday. Moore failed to deliver the club to the play-offs and a chance at promotion to the Championship, but more importantly, perhaps, was the 19% drop in attendance. This was cited as the club’s desire for “a new direction.”
Meanwhile, Barnes’s seven month contract was up as manager of the Jamaican National Team. Originally told it would be renewed, Barnes has expressed dissapointment he won’t be there to bring Jamaica to the Gold Cup in July.
So now Barnes is supposedly in “talks” with Tranmere about Moore’s vacated post. Tranmere have also expressed interest in two other former Liverpool FC players taking the role: Jason McAteer and Paul Ince. Like Moore, McAteer also once played for Tranmere. Two former Liverpool legends have managed Tranmere in the past: Roy Yeats and John Aldridge.
Barnes has not managed a club side since his brief stint in charge of Celtic. Like his Jamaica job, his reign at Celtic only lasted seven months. The Glascow side sacked him after Inverness Caldonian upset them out of the Scottish Cup. Criticisms then that Barnes style clashed with the team have been reiterrated recently by former Celtic defender Alan Stubbs.
But in the above linked BBC article from 2000, there is also a telling quote from former Celtic director Brian Dempsey:
“Celtic is a difficult club for anyone to either play at or be involved with in management at any level.
“As Mr Barnes put it at his press conference, to ‘cut his teeth’ into management at Celtic was an almost impossible task from the beginning.”
Perhaps Tranmere would be a better arena for Mr Barnes to make a new go of managing at the club level. The pressure won’t be the same as at Glascow, but he would have the challenges of bringing the club to the next set of playoffs (or better) as well as raising attendence.
It would be nice to see Barnes do well. If Celtic was too intense a place to “cut his teeth”, winning the Caribbean Cup with Jamaica may have been too easy. It’s been suggested that since Barnes had a “vastly superior squad” compared to his regional counterparts, the Caribbean Cup was not a “true test” of his abilities.
If he gets the job, Barnes should approach Tranmere (and Tranmere should approach Barnes) as a fresh beginning. Neither should let his failure with Celtic or his success with Jamaica set an unfair standard in either direction.
A League One side that finished just below the playoffs is a reasonable place to test Barnes’s abilities. If he can bring them success and if he can at least put bodies in seats with quality football, we will finally know that Barnes has the tools to be a good manager.