John Barnes is 60 today.
As someone who began watching football in 1990, I missed his true peak years, when he was an electric element in a rampant Liverpool team.
As a reader of Shoot!, I was aware that there was a sense that he suffered through not being able to replicate his club form for the national side – as well as taking in the disbelief that, in 1992-93, a player could command £10,000 a week.
At his best on the left wing, in the late 1980s and early 1990s he wore 10 for the Reds and generally 11 for England. It’s often forgotten that a mid-decade renaissance in central midfield earned him quite a few caps under Terry Venables and, after winning the 67th of his 79 caps against Finland in June 1992 (in which he suffered an injury that ruled him out of Euro 92), he didn’t wear 11 for his country again.
In all but two of his remaining starts, he wore 10, while against the USA in 1994 he had number 8, partnering his former Liverpool team-mate Barry Venison in midfield. The outlier is the game away to Turkey in March 1993.
First of all, let’s give Graham Taylor some credit for the ahead-of-its-time 4-2-3-1 formation, even if Paul Gascoigne was not being optimised on the right flank.
Barnes had worn 10 in the previous international, the 6-0 win at home to San Marino, when Les Ferdinand played up front wearing 9, so we can only assume that Ian Wright – number 8 at Arsenal – did not wish to have 9 on his back and Barnes was happy to accommodate him.
England won 2-0 against but would endure disappointing results against the Netherlands, Poland and Norway between then and the summer, damaging their chances of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
England did make it to America in June of 1993 for the US Cup, with Brazil, Germany and the hosts also involved. For that tournament, Ferdinand was given 9 with Barnes 10 and Wright 14 – he would later wear that for West Ham United after leaving Arsenal.
Incidentally, Andy Sinton – normally a wide midfielder – wore 3 against Turkey as he played left-back. His only other start for England after that was the final qualifier, the 7-1 win away to San Marino in November, when he wore 10 with Wright scoring four goals in his favoured 8.
He’s not the only one to have such a combination to his name, though – in fact, there are two others. Trevor Brooking often wore 10 and had 3 as England used an alphabet-based numbering system at the 1982 World Cup – a special prize for anyone who can tell us the only England international other than Sinton and Brooking to wear both 3 and 10 for his country at senior level.