‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 28th October 2021

Ahead of Gameweek 10 in the Premier League, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on Solskjaer’s future, Mo Salah being the best player in the world, and Gary Neville’s punditry.

John Barnes Exclusive: United should keep Solskjaer until the end of the season

“It’s never a good idea to change manager midway through the season. If Manchester United bring in a new manager now with the team they have and the way they’re playing, nothing will change that quickly. It’s not ideal.

“Manchester United also have to look at who’s available, there’s not too many options right now. A new manager coming to Manchester United isn’t going to win them the league or finish in the top two or three. They can still finish in the Champions League places but sacking Ole now isn’t the way forward for United.”

john barnes

John Barnes Exclusive: Antonio Conte won’t join Newcastle now so Manchester United can afford to wait for a new manager

“Where is someone like Antonio Conte likely to go before the end of the season? The top clubs in the world aren’t going to sack their managers before then, and he wouldn’t choose Newcastle over Manchester United. His style of play (Conte) wouldn’t Barcelona even though they’ve sacked Ronald Koeman. 

“Once upon a time, there were lots of top managers available and lots of clubs looking for managers, Klopp went to Liverpool, Guardiola went to Man City and Tuchel went to PSG. But that calibre of manager is not available at this moment, nor are there many clubs available for those types of managers, so they can afford to wait for the right opportunity. So, for that reason, Manchester United should wait before appointing a new manager.”

John Barnes Exclusive: We need more pundits like Gary Neville who can empathise with managers

“Pundits shouldn’t call for managers to be sacked regardless of whether they’re friends or not. A pundit is there to give his expert opinion on the football. They don’t know the ins and outs of a club, nor the inner workings of the training ground dynamic to say whether a certain manager should, or shouldn’t, be sacked. Pundits don’t know the relationship he has with the players or the board because he’s a pundit.

“Pundits should comment on what they see and what they know, not on speculation, otherwise every time a team loses, they’d be saying the manager should be sacked. 

“I was never the type of pundit who called for mangers to be sacked. It’s not a question of calling him out, because he [Neville] has been critical of Ole and Manchester United in the past, but just because he’s not calling for Solskjaer’s sacking, doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job properly. That’s not what his job is.

“I’d actually like to see more pundits like Neville in terms of supporting managers, particularly pundits who are former managers and know how difficult it is and understand that the solution isn’t just to sack the manager. 

“Gary Neville is very good at what he does in terms of explaining the game from a footballing perspective so if he were to come out and start calling for managerial sackings, that would be wrong, even if he was talking about Guardiola and Manchester City!”

John Barnes Exclusive: Pogba’s red card was unfortunate but at least it shows he’s committed 

“His sending off was unfortunate, he was fully committed so it was just a badly timed tackle. He didn’t mean to get sent off and it wasn’t particularly nasty, but he just mistimed the tackle and that happens in football. United want a committed Paul Pogba for the team so regardless of speculation, they need him to step up.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Mo Salah is in his best form ever right now, but he won’t be thinking about Vardy’s record 

For Salah to break Vardy’s goalscoring record, he won’t see it as ‘Brighton and West Ham to come’, it’s just Brighton. He won’t be thinking about the West Ham game to break the record when there’s the Brighton game up first. If you back Liverpool to score in a game, then you back Salah to score as well, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to because that’s football.

“At this moment in time, he’s playing as well as he ever has but we’re not even halfway through the season yet. We have to take each game as it comes and over the last ten or eleven games, he’s probably been the best player in the world. However, it’s a long season and if Liverpool don’t win a trophy, and his scoring form dries up, the fact he scored in 11 consecutive games will mean nothing and he knows that.

“He is the best player in the world right now, but Liverpool need him to do that for the whole of the season and I’m sure he will. He won’t get carried away, he’ll stay hungry and focused. 

John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool are such an effective team and don’t rely on individual players

Fabinho will be a big miss because you always want your best players playing. If they were playing a Champions League final against the best team in the world, they’d want Fabinho because he’s their best holding midfield player. 

“But the team are still winning without him and that’s the best thing about Liverpool; they don’t rely on individual players. [Sadio] Mané wasn’t playing so [Diogo] Jota came in and they won 5-0. 

“Manchester City and Chelsea are similar to Liverpool in that respect, as whichever players go out and play, they will all put in a similar level of performance.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Regardless of Smith-Rowe’s form, breaking into the England squad will be a very tough task

Smith-Rowe is already competing and playing at the level of players such as Grealish, Foden and Maddison. He was a bit inconsistent but that’s because he’s been playing in an inconsistent team. 

“As a young player, playing in a team that wins each week like Foden at Manchester City – will help them massively because you don’t want young players to be carrying the team. You want them to be playing with freedom and without pressure. 

“That said, Smith-Rowe probably been one of Arsenal’s most consistent players and he just has to keep doing what he’s doing. Unfortunately for him, Grealish and Foden are playing in a top 6 team and as well as he’s playing, there are already plenty of players who play that position for England.”

“But he’s young, he’s showing great maturity at Arsenal so he has absolutely nothing to worry about.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Sterling has a big decision to make about his Man City future

He won’t move in January but maybe at the end of the season. There’s not a lot he can do right now other than just play as well as he can and try and force his way back into the side. They have Grealish, Mahrez, Foden and Bernardo Silva already in those wide positions.

“He still has a great attitude when he plays and we’re not privy to the day in day out so can’t speculate as to what’s going wrong, but when he plays, he plays well. All he can do is knuckle down and play as well as he can. But come the end of the season, he’ll have to think about where he will be a definite starter and if he has to leave Manchester City for that to happen, it’ll be a tough decision for him. 

“He’ll make the right decision for himself. A lot of players are on big wages at a big club and are quite happy to sit there and not play every week but Raheem’s not like that. He’ll have a big decision to make at the end of the season.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Tielemans has proved he can play at the highest level and won’t be short of suitors

Tielemans has the ability to play for any of the world’s top clubs. As a midfield player who works hard, he can do a job as a 6 or an 8. He’s never going to score a load of goals, but he does that role well for Leicester and for Belgium. If he were to leave, he’d have a lot of suitors.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Dele is still a fantastic player, but a fresh start might help him regain his form

It’s a shame Dele’s career has stagnated because he’s such a fabulous player. We all know what he did under Pochettino, and unfortunately it didn’t really work out under Mourinho. 

“He has to perform every week and show the right attitude and commitment, regardless of who the manager is. Mourinho questioned those attributes in him but he’s not there anymore and things still haven’t gone Dele’s way. 

“He’s a fantastic player and Tottenham would have a lot of takers if he decided to leave. When we look at it from the outside, we ask, ‘why is this great player not playing?’ and we start questioning the manager and Dele’s relationship with the club, but we don’t know any of that. 

“He’s a fantastic player and he’s got to either knuckle down, show a good attitude and get back into the team or he has to go. But only he can make that decision.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Alfredo Morelos will never change, but he’ll always score goals

Alfredo Morelos is so important to Rangers because he’s their talisman and their top goal scorer. He’s always going to have those disciplinary issues because that’s just who he is. But whenever he plays, he performs and that’s all you can ask for.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Walter Smith is a great loss to the world of football

I did a couple of shows with Walter Smith and he was just a proper footballing man. He was a great guy, tough but fair. He knew how to treat people and all the players loved him. He was a humble guy, a great manager and a great person,  everyone says that about him.

As much as he managed big clubs like Everton and Rangers, he was empathetic and kind. It’s a great loss to his family first and foremost, but also to the world of football.”


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