How often do we hear about the next big thing at a club, a young player that has the world at his feet and suddenly becomes labeled as the next ‘Messi’, ‘Gerrard’ or ‘Rooney’, but for whatever reason they turn out to be the next Sonny Pike. Giles Barnes is one player that fits this mould; one minute Barnes looked like he would be England’s next Barnes and the next he was struggling to get a game. Giles Barnes has turned it around though and has started to rediscover his form with the other waifs and strays that have collected at Doncaster. At only 23-years-old Giles Barnes has enjoyed the highs and lows of a career in professional football.
Barnes burst on to the scene at Derby as a 17-year-old, but it took a while for him to get his full first team chance. It wasn’t until Academy Director Graham Westley became caretaker manager at Derby, following the sacking of Phil Brown, that Barnes got his full debut in the first team. Westley was put in charge of Derby to save the club from relegation and had no hesitation in putting his faith in youth. Graham Westley had already overseen the developments of talents such as Kieron Dyer, Matty Upson and Tom Huddlestone during his career and saw Barnes as a player that could rejuvenate a struggling Derby side.
Westley’s decision to put his faith in youth seemed instantly justified after Barnes earned Man of the Match in his first full start for Derby in a narrow 1-0 defeat to high-flying Sheffield United who finished second that season. Derby ended up surviving that season and it looked again as though the Academy had unearthed a diamond, as the story of Barnes’ emergence was almost a carbon copy of Tom Huddlestone’s just two seasons earlier before he departed for Tottenham. Everyone thought on first impression that Barnes’ career would follow a similar path to that of Huddlestone’s with Premier League and England football a real possibility, but in the seasons that followed, opinion couldn’t have seemed more wrong.
Barnes spent a total of 4 seasons at Derby, his best season was the 2006/07 campaign in which the club gained promotion to the Premier League. Barnes played 46 times in all competitions, scoring 8 goals, and was awarded the Rams ‘Young Player of the Season’ for his efforts. It looked like Barnes had earned his shot at the big time, but things didn’t go quite to plan. Barnes was restricted to only 21 Premier League appearances as injury blighted his progress. The youngster had already carved a reputation amongst many Premier League clubs as ‘one-to-watch’, but his injuries meant he spent a prolonged period on the sidelines before a loan spell to Fulham looked to have thrown him a lifeline. However, not only did he fail to win a permanent move to Fulham, he didn’t even make an appearance, and as he returned to Derby his future was less than certain.
Barnes went from ‘next big thing’ at Derby, to having Derby cancel his contract by mutual consent and it was time for Barnes to find another club. When you think back to the billing and potential he had shown just 3 seasons earlier, this was quite a turnaround in fortunes.
Luckily, Barnes had shown enough for clubs to know that if he was given a chance and got over his injury problems, then he could still be a player. Following a brief stint training with Birmingham City, Barnes eventually signed for West Bromwich Albion, who were on the up and were one of the top Championship sides. Barnes made limited progress as the club reached the Premier League the season he signed. Barnes started once and made 13 sub appearances for West Brom on their return to the Premier League, but after a string of bad results, manager Roberto Di Matteo was sacked. Roy Hodgson was appointed, which was bad news for Giles Barnes as Hodgson was the manager who decided not to sign him following his loan at Fulham. Hodgson made the call to release Barnes as his career took another turn towards obscurity.
Barnes again was left without a club, but wasn’t short of suitors. Steve McClaren made a move to bring Barnes back to Nottingham Forest, the club where Barnes spent the majority of his youth career before defecting to Derby, but the deal didn’t come off. Instead Barnes signed for Doncaster Rovers on a six-month contract as he made a bid to get his promising career back on track and remind the football world of the talent he possesses. Barnes has returned to form and is now an integral part of the Doncaster Rovers side playing alongside other talents that have needed a chance like Pascal Chimbonda, El-Hadji Diouf, Hebib Beye and Freddie Piquionne.
Giles Barnes will find himself in a familiar situation come May as he will again be out-of-contract and having to find a new club. The main difference is this will be on his terms as he wings his way towards playing over 30 games this season. His return from injury has allowed this 23-year-old to remind the football world of the talent he possesses, which should give him the security of a long-term deal at a club that matches his ambition.
Barnes may be seen by some to have fallen from grace, but other young aspiring players should use his determination as a big motivator during their careers. Barnes has shown that you can have all the potential in the world, but unless you work hard and bounce back from the disappointments that a life in football can bring, potential counts for nothing. Hopefully Barnes’ attitude and work ethic will be rewarded this summer as links with Premier League sides re-emerge. Whoever he signs for, he has earned his crack at the big time again; let’s just hope he can grasp it with both hands.