‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 22nd June 2021

Following England’s goalless draw against Scotland in the European Championship, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former England midfielder shared his thoughts on Scotland’s surprising performance against England, England’s lack of team coherence and provided his thoughts ahead of their match against Czech Republic.

John Barnes Exclusive: The way Scotland attacked England, surprised me!

“Friday’s goalless draw was an excellent game for Scotland, who played really well, they surprised me. People thought they’d defend deeply, which they did, but nobody expected them to cause England as many problems as they did. 

“Scotland didn’t just sit back and defend. The underdogs coming out and attacking is a feature of this tournament. Scotland coming forward really impressed me. While England had more possession, Scotland arguably had the better chances.” 

John Barnes Exclusive: England must continue playing with two holding midfielders


“People are looking at the Scotland game and asking why we need two holding midfielders. The key to winning football matches isn’t always putting more No.10s and more strikers on the pitch, because you also have to defend. 

“If England play one holding midfield player against better teams like Belgium or France, those sides will create even more chances than a team like Scotland’s four or five good opportunities against our two holding midfielders. 

“We have to stop thinking that we have to play more Jack Grealish’s, more Phil Foden’s, or just play all of our attacking midfield players. How many attacking players do you need? Which team has four attacking players on the pitch and then play even more if they’re not playing well?

“The balance still isn’t right.”

John Barnes Exclusive: England always rely on individuals and is the reason why we never succeed in tournaments

“Wholesale changes for the Czech Republic game is not the answer to England’s attacking woes. England’s problem is that they have always relied on individual players too much. 

“That is not what big teams do. The best teams have a precise way of playing. Germany don’t have great individual players, but they have a good system that they play to create chances.

“We rely on Raheem Sterling to dribble around people and score or get a corner and Harry Kane or Harry Maguire scores. That’s not what a football team is based on. Your tactic can’t be to get the ball to Raheem Sterling or Phil Foden and let them do something special. That is what always lets us down. 

“In the past, we’ve done well because individual players have shone. If you look at England as a team, we don’t have a method of playing, which has been our downfall. Until that is sorted, we’re just relying on individuals winning us games.

“If we think that the solution is an individual who’s on top form, that may work against the Czechs. However, further down the line, expecting one player to do that against the French, the Italians or the Belgians is naïve.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Gareth Southgate must find the balance in the team for England to do well

“Gareth Southgate changed his full-backs against Scotland, and he may do it against the Czech Republic, but it is irrelevant. They’re all good players. What matters is the way England play. 

“England can play Ben Chilwell instead of Luke Shaw, or Kyle Walker instead of Reece James, but it doesn’t matter, unless Gareth gives them direction as to what the team pattern is.

 “We haven’t seen a pattern for years. England place so much importance on individuals. This is nothing new for them, because it’s always been about picking individuals and saying, ‘They’re good players, so we’re going to win games. Or that they’re good enough to beat the so-called lesser teams.’ As soon as we go up against a well-organised team of players who are equally as good, we lose.

“We’re good enough to get to the quarter-finals or the semi-finals, and if those individuals perform in those games, we can keep winning, but you shouldn’t rely on individuals – what happens when your best individual gets injured? 

“Look at Germany, Gnabry is playing up front for them and he couldn’t get in the Arsenal team. It’s nothing to do with the individual, if they have some quality and fit the system.

“Our balance isn’t right and that’s the most important thing.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Harry Kane must play differently for England than what he does at Spurs

“When Harry Kane plays for Tottenham, he comes short, gets the ball and creates chances for Son or scores himself. 

“When he plays for England, with Phil Foden and other creative players in the side, there’s no point Harry [Kane] trying to be that creative player – you want him up front and scoring goals.

“He doesn’t play the same way for Tottenham.

“You just want Harry Kane to be the centre-forward, not to get involved in the play – England have enough people to do that. Why would Harry be coming short to get hold of the ball and be the creative player? 

“It’s only in the last year or so that Harry’s started to be a creative player for Tottenham, coming short to get hold of the ball. That may be the way he’s needed for Tottenham, but it’s not needed for England.”

John Barnes Exclusive: England need a cohesive performance against the Czech Republic

“England will beat the Czech Republic and the score will be 2-1, but England’s performance must be cohesive.

“Look at Germany, they played okay against France and lost 1-0. After which, they didn’t then decide to get all their individual players on the field, they stuck to what they were doing, and were superb against Portugal.

“England go from week to week. We play well against Croatia, and we say we’re the best, then we don’t play well, and everybody says we’re the worst. 

“Look at Paul Pogba, the way he plays for France is not the same as for Manchester United. For France, he doesn’t show up with backheels or try to be a superstar, he wins tackles, plays solidly, and keeps it simple. 

“Whereas England’s individuals feel it’s up to them to beat five players and score. We saw it when Raheem Sterling tried dribbling past Scotland’s left back when he should have passed the ball out to a team-mate to cross it. 

“England players feel that’s how they have to perform, because that’s what we say to them, ‘You’re in the team to beat players’. France and Germany don’t do that. They have a proper team and rely on the team to win matches. That is what we should do.”

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