John Barnes exclusive: Liverpool legend laments Rodgers’ ‘disappointing’ season so far

Football FanCast recently caught up with Liverpool legend and former England international John Barnes to exclusively ask him about all things Liverpool, the current situation with race in football and why the England team are no longer competing at the top level.

John Barnes’ playing career spanned over two decades, with half of his time spent at Liverpool. The club still holds a special place in his heart and he offered his thoughts and how the season has gone so far for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

“It’s been disappointing how far the level has dropped, even without Suarez or Sturridge,” exclaimed the former England winger.

“It’s a young inexperienced side so I didn’t expect them to do as well as they did last year because last year they maximised their potential to its fullest. Unfortunately, the younger players have been inconsistent this year.”

One of the inconsistent performers this year has been Raheem Sterling. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is rumoured to be avoiding signing a new deal amidst claims that some of Europe’s biggest clubs are preparing to make a bid for him in the near future. Barnes was quick to offer his opinion on what Sterling should do:

“He’s only been in the game one and a half seasons, If you’re going to get a £60million pound move, similar to what Gareth Bale has done, you have to perform at the highest level for three or four years. If you make that move, you’re going to be judged week in, week out.”

Although Sterling has impressed for Liverpool, Barnes believes that producing consistently high quality performances is the key to earning a big-money move away from Anfield, “He should have another two or three seasons at Liverpool- I’d like him to stay for another 10 years- but if he wants to move he needs another two or three years at Liverpool to show that he is playing consistently to handle the pressure at a club whereby you have to perform week in week out. Wilfired Zaha left Crystal Palace for a lot of money after one breakthrough season and you can see what happened to him so I don’t think this will be the right time for Raheem to move on”.

The rumoured departure of Raheem Sterling is just one of a host of problems surrounding Liverpool at the moment. We asked Barnes whether he thinks that Brendan Rodgers deserves to be under such a huge amount of pressure as the halfway point in the season approaches, “When teams play well it’s about the players, when teams play badly it’s all about the manager, everybody has to take responsibility. They can still finish fourth due to the levels of inconsistency apart from Chelsea and Manchester City”. Clearly, there is the sense that Brendan Rodgers needs more time to turn things around at Anfield.

Despite the support for the Northern-Irish boss, Barnes expressed his disappointment at the way Liverpool handled their transfer business in the summer, “The problem Liverpool have is even if you are going to spend £100 million, you aren’t necessarily going to improve the team. The way you improve the team is by spending money on salaries and paying players £250,000 a week. Look at Chelsea with Fabregas and Costa, they spent less money than Liverpool but those players improved the team. They players Liverpool have are good, but they are not any better than what was at the club prior to their arrival.”

Barnes was also asked about the potential of new players arriving in January, “People keep saying that we need to sign a centre forward and a central defender as well as a goalkeeper. I want names of who is better, who we can afford and who is willing to come. It would be great to sign players but if you can’t get better than what you’ve already got, why just spend money? I don’t think January is the right time to be signing anyway”

Despite a lot of Liverpool fans claiming that Liverpool should spend in the winter window, Barnes believes that the club should look towards the players they have playing at the club already, “Balotelli has to be given more time at Anfield because we haven’t got a choice. If Balotelli came to a team like Liverpool’s last season I think he would have done well but in a team that’s struggling, he won’t be able to get you out of the slump they’re in. Once the team starts to play better, he will play better. He showed signs of it against Manchester United so hopefully he can turn the corner.”

As well as Liverpool, we asked Barnes about why there is a lack of black managers in the game at the moment, “This is a societal problem. Until we get rid of the stigma of the black’s man’s inability to lead in any walk of life, nothing will change”. Garth Crooks recently accused football league chairman Greg Clarke of ‘bottling it’ when it came to discussing black managers in the game.

There has been a call for the ‘Rooney Rule’ to be implemented into the game, whereby minority candidates will be interviewed for management or coaching jobs in the Football League. Barnes believes that the rule will not solve the issue of the lack of black managers in the game, however. “The Rooney Rule states you only have to give them an interview, not a job. You’re still going to have a perception and the Rooney Rule won’t change that”. Therefore, Barnes believes that a change of ideology towards minorities in society is the only way forward as it is still a very current problem in the UK today.

Finally, Barnes then expressed his concern with the way English talent is being introduced in the Premier League and how the national team struggles as a result:

“Roy Hodgson is doing as well as he can with what he has. England haven’t got a big pool to choose from because of the lack of English talent playing at the highest level for the bigger clubs.

The English clubs have to start taking responsibility like the German clubs did- and the Italian clubs ten years ago- by putting young English players into their team and sticking with them which will then help the national team but clubs don’t have an allegiance to their owners, the managers don’t have an allegiance to the English FA so they don’t think about helping them.”

Barnes also looked towards the lack of support for the England team nowadays, “The clubs take president over the country, fans don’t care about England. Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea fans don’t want their players to play for England because they might get injured. Until we change the perception to it being important to play for England, it’s going to be very difficult”

John Barnes was speaking on behalf of

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