It all started with a tweet back in 2015.
What Mr. Corney refers to in his tweet is Sports Life Stories: John Barnes – a 2015 ITV documentary about the life and career of the legendary LFC footballer John Barnes. And 1:24 minutes into the documentary, John Barnes has a training session with a handful of teenagers one of which looks exactly like Damian!
Tbkwrm, one of my fellow blog mates in the first few years of Fan Fun, and I start to talk. We both bet money that the teenager in the film was Damian Lewis but how could we prove that it was him? Well, Tbkwrm has a compelling argument based on an earlier conversation she and I had.
I had read an interview Damian gave to the Daily Record in which the interviewer reminded him that once he said his dream job would be to wear the Liverpool No. 10 shirt and clean Steven Gerrard’s boots…
A moment with God. (The one in the middle). pic.twitter.com/bCWFDl4Ar0
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 14, 2014
“I’m not fit to clean Gerrard’s boots. I played football at quite a decent standard at school level, I still play the game and I love it. But Steven Gerrard is a dynamo. He has the gift of not only being a great footballer but also an inspirational figure.”
So I definitely get the “Steven Gerrard’s boots” part but why would he particularly wear No. 10 shirt?
Tbkwrm, a BIG football fan herself — sorry Damian, she is a Celtic fan 🙂 — remarks that it is quite possible Damian wants to wear the Liverpool No. 10 shirt for John Barnes — an LFC player who could easily be an idol for a young Liverpool fan in 1980s. And once we see the picture of a ginger teenager with John Barnes on Twitter, we are believers in our story! But then I forget about the picture…
… well, until the fantastic interview Andy Heaton has with Damian on his great LFC podcast The Anfield Wrap.
The Anfield Wrap asks every guest to relive their three most favorite LFC goals aka their Desert Island Goals and Andy Heaton says that the first goal Damian has chosen is one that nobody has chosen before. And before he leaves it to Damian, Andy gives some background for Damian’s first Desert Island Goal.
It was towards the end of the season in 1987 so Damian was 16 years old. Liverpool trailed Queens Park Rangers (QPR) by 3 points with two games in hand and QPR came to Anfield to play the Reds.
Damian: “I picked this for different reasons. I remember seeing this, I think, on The Big Match with Brian Moore, if you remember…
Johnny Barnes, only a year before or two years before, was at Watford, so he was quite recently at Liverpool. And I went to school quite near Watford and he came down and he gave us some coaching sessions. So when I was a 14-15 year old lad, I had a few sessions with Johnny Barnes… He just came in his spare time, coached us lads…”
WHAAAAT? DAMIAN HAD A COACHING SESSION WITH JOHNNY BARNES?!?!?! THAT TWEET AND THE CONVERSATION I HAD WITH TBKWRM 7 YEARS AGO IS NOW COMING BACK TO ME!!! SO… THAT YOUNG GINGER WITH A SLIGHTLY SHY SMILE IN THE VIDEOi IS DAMIAN!!!!
Damian goes on to say that Johnnie Barnes was a hero for him. He was so laid back in the way he spoke that he took the pressure off those uptight 14-15 year olds when he had training sessions with them. And when one saw him on the pitch, he adds, and there were only a few footballers that give you chills on the pitch, Barnesy was one of them.
“And this QPR goal was just classic Barnesy. Running at the defense, and he goes left with his right foot and then comes back on left and that was always so surprising about Barnesy.”
“Everything was left peg like Madonna, (he laughs at his mistake), Maradona (hahaha I am still giggling at this!!!) always leading on his left peg, ball attached to his left foot, but you see his goals…
…if you go back over his goals, which everyone obviously has on YouTube, how many times he comes up on the right foot and he lashes it with his right… top right, top left, bottom right… I mean he had a strong finish with his right foot.”
Damianista jumps in here: Hey I wrote about Damian and Maradona here!
“And as you say we were 3 points behind. We won that game… Came back. And it was just seeing Barnesy… it was just what he did. I just loved watching him. His balance was unbelievable.”
Andy wants to talk a bit more about balance, because he says, especially for people younger than Damian and himself, John Barnes was a big man. In addition, keeping balance on the mud baths they played at the time was a real challenge. Barnes had power, control and grace on the pitch.
Damian: “He was fantastic. And the pace… he didn’t look like he was quick because as you say he was moving quietly. He was muscly, he had big muscle on him, but he was quick as well. Surprisingly.”
Andy points out an important fact here: We are living in a different world than how players of color were treated back in the ’80s. And he argues that John Barnes helped transform LFC supporters by breaking the barriers.
Damian agrees that the kind of abuse Barnesy and others had to go through in the ’80s was terrible. They were abused when they came out to play, they had things thrown at them.
Damian: “Trailblazers… in the way they held their head high, came through it, played through it, and just silenced everyone with their skill.”
Thank you Andy and thank you Damian. I also think Damian is spot on pointing out that the ’80s are not a Victorian bygone era. Racism is still rampant but yes those footballers are true heroes that made a change only using their skills with the ball. Kudos.
You can watch the highlights of the match Damian talks about on the podcast here. Barnesy’s 2nd and LFC’s 4th goal, which is Damian’s Desert Island Goal, happens at 5:08.
Well, I get so excited about the Damian having training sessions with John Barnes story 7 years after we had that conversation that I immediately tweeted to The Anfield Wrap Twitter!
OMG I’m a huge #LFC fan since I was 6 and the biggest #DamianLewis fan ever! I’m listening to the podcast and Damian talks about Barnes giving him and his pals coaching lessons. @lewis_damian is this your teenage self in the pic? I’ve been suspicious for some time! ⚽️❤️ #YNWA pic.twitter.com/vPtGL6J196
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) June 24, 2022
Well, never underestimate the power of social media! As it started with a tweet back in April 2015, it ends with one in June 2022.
Big thanks go to Andy Heaton and the person who confirmed the young guy in the picture was Damian. I suspect it could be the same person Andy did not name on the podcast that arranged for Damian to guest on the podcast.
Oh and when I shared this post for the first time, guess who tweeted to me?!?!?! Mr. John Barnes! As I told him, I will keep his Tweet forever!
And for the LFC and Barnesy fans among you, I leave here a few links where you can read about why this particular LFC – QPR match was a career defining one for John Barnes. And it turns out, according to the Liverpool Echo article below, the goal Damian has chosen as one of his Desert Island Goals on The Anfield Wrap is the one that Barnesy himself considers the best in his career <3
The Guardian: “Golden Goal”: John Barnes for Liverpool vs QPR (1987)
This is Anfield: The game that made them a Liverpool icon: John Barnes vs QPR
Liverpool Echo: An Ode to John Barnes, the Liverpool players’ favourite player and an enduring cultural pioneer