22 January 2014


At the tail end of last summer, we took deep breaths and returned to the new Withers following ‘that’ play-off debacle for a new season, a new era. In one of the early Falmer games this season, we managed to snap this photo of Ashley Barnes pretending to understand what he was holding. For he is a footballer, and he understands little. Barnes was injured that day and had already been in for a (failed) fitness test yet had returned to Falmer to watch the match, and indeed he made his entire family do the same. Shortly after I took this photo, I apologised to his wife - had I not recognised the then Albion striker, their passage to the player’s entrance would have been painless. As it was, he was stuck in an auto / photo graph hoard of Albionites trying to touch a man who, despite vilified by a few, was highly regarded by most.

Ahead of the Derby game (not that one last weekend, the one at Falmer back in August), a regular fan (not customer, obvs) told us a story from the summer that involved Barnes: “Wivelsfield Village Fair invited Ashley Barnes and William Buckley to open the village's new ‘football wall’. When they arrived, they were introduced by organisers - William Buckley for his wonderful two late goals in the opening league match at the Amex v Doncaster; and Ashley Barnes for his suspension for tripping up a referee! Both players were cheered, but there was a lot of laughter after the Barnes introduction.”
It is that trip that Albionites will mainly remember Barnes for. Well, that and his post-match comments following the Wrexham FA Cup tie in which he expressed his delight at picking the three points. As a fanzine, stupidity amongst players is a premium. Where would TSLR be without players like Barnes? Sure we had the inept playing skills of Fran Sandaza and Colin Hawkins before him; and the recent weight issues surrounding Leroy Lita and Kemy Agustien. But with Barnes, we had a hard-working, generally decent player let down by his anger on the pitch and his primary school language skills off it.

But Barnes should be remembered for more than just those two incidents. His goal record was excellent - in 150-odd games (including substitute appearances), he scored 53 goals. This puts him 27th in Albion’s all-time list of goalscorers. If you restrict the list of all time Albion goalscorers to post-war only, then he sits in 12th place - two goals more than Nicky Forster and four goals less than Glenn Murray. Kit Napier tops that list with 99 goals, Peter ward second with 95 and Bobby Zamora fourth with 83. However you look at it, Barnes’ goal total is impressive. Special thanks to the Brighton and Hove Albion Collectors’ and Historians’ Society for that goal scoring knowledge.

Barnes’ goal scoring record at Albion is indeed even more impressive than that: Barnes was sacrificed as an out and out striker under Gus. The Uruguayan, in his refusal to field two strikers, converted Barnes into some sort of deep lying left sided striker, or an advanced left-winger. Either way, Barnes wasn’t left footed. But he still did a wonderful job. And when the injuries to out and out strikers beset the squad this season, Barnes was left to rediscover how to play up top alone. A task in which he performed admirably, a couple of sitters aside.

In consideration of how Poyet used Barnes for his own ends (self-centred? Poyet? Never?!?), Ashley did a very decent job. In particular this season, his goal at Bournemouth in front of the Sky cameras was an absolute beauty. But it is more than that. The ability of Barnes to hold the ball up top whilst playing as a lone striker (a role that has become increasingly important across the footballing spectrum since he joined Albion in 2010) was pretty impressive. As I stared at Al-Jazeera’s Algerian stream from Derby on Saturday, I noticed just how little the ball would stay with the Albion’s front line to allow midfielders to join attacks. A symptom of Barnes at Burnley? Let’s hope not.

So to Turf Moor Barnes went, seemingly happy to play second fiddle behind Danny Ings (16 goals this season so far) and Sam Vokes (a remarkable 12). All of us here at TSLR hope he gets the three points that advances the Clarets towards the FA Cup final. Thanks Ash, for the trip, the goals, the heart. But mainly the goals.

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