Barnes fears for England in trying to catch Spain best

 

That goal in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana nearly three decades ago provided a tantalising hint of what English football could produce, but John Barnes has provided a sobering assessment of the national team's long road to aspirations of silverware. Things may get worse before they get better, he says, because the power of the Premier League will continue to prevent young players gaining the top-flight experience integral to the flourishing of Spain and Germany.

Barnes had played 30 times for Watford when he accelerated through the entire Brazil side in June 1984, and he joins The Independent columnist Rafael Benitez, the Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, Gérard Houllier, Patrick Vieira and the England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce in his forceful argument that the dearth of Premier League experience is England's single biggest problem.

"The German football association came to an agreement with the clubs that to help the national team they had to promote young German players in the clubs," Barnes said. "German clubs suffered for five years but look at how good they are now. Unfortunately that won't happen in England because of the Premier League, the owners and how much more important it is in England to play for your club rather than your country. In Spain there is an identity and responsibility to have, like, Barcelona playing Catalan players.

"Even in Italy it was no secret that the national team improved when the whole exodus of their players stopped and they were forced to have Italian players playing for their big teams like Juventus, and look how good their team is. Unless our best young players are playing regularly for their clubs the national team will suffer."

Benitez has argued that Premier League clubs must be allowed to put reserve sides through the football pyramid – which won't happen – and that a competitive under-21 reserve league is needed. The Premier League is launching one next month. But Barnes dismissed the idea of that making a difference.

"No," he said. "You need players playing at the highest level of the Champions' League. Unfortunately it will get worse before it starts to get better for the national team in England. It's the clubs who will be fine."

Barnes said, at the launch of the National Football Museum in Manchester, that the humility England demonstrated at the European Championship is a significant step. "We had a bit of a knock, I must admit, when Fifa made us number four in the world this week (Brazil are 11th). I think that's a bit of a setback.Because maybe we are going to think 'Oh we're number four! Let's get back to thinking we are the best in the world and we should be winning the World Cup. We don't have to move forward, or develop'."

England do need to develop, with a wholesale change in their philosophy, Barnes said – a point Benitez has pressed hard in recent weeks. "I don't think we should necessarily concentrate on the desire and the determination and the good old British up-and-at-'em spirit which over the years I think we've played too much on," said Barnes.

"With the laws these days you can't be too over-aggressive so we then have to improve on the other side of things. I don't think we need to improve our individual technique. We need to improve our collective philosophy; our general team philosophy in how we want to play, how we want to move the ball, do we want to keep the ball for maybe 30 passes without necessarily going forward? That's not traditionally our thing. Our thing is 'let's get the ball moving forward as quickly as possible'. We are not going to play like Spain but we can get a happy medium, a happy blend."

Barnes does not see the Olympics as significant. "It's a great showcase, but for me football is about playing at the highest level like the World Cup, the Champions' League. Yes, it's great to say you are playing in the Olympics but that isn't going to improve anything. For athletics, swimming, cycling yes – it's the pinnacle. For football and tennis, it's a sideshow."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence