IT was one of the wildest decades in football — and John Barnes has revealed how he had Simply The Best time when he partied in the Eighties dressed as Tina Turner.
The former Liverpool star has told how crazy antics were widespread before the Premier League transformed the top of the game into a slick, money-making machine.
On Kate Garraway’s Life Stories tonight he recalls how players were constantly going on booze binges celebrating the team’s regular triumphs.
He tells Kate, who is making her debut as the show’s presenter: “In the late Eighties into the early Nineties we were celebrating most nights.
“It got messy from an alcoholic point of view for a lot of the big drinkers.
“But of course you couldn’t make excuses to not come into training and play properly.
“If you want to be sick on the side of the pitch because you’ve drunk too much, that’s fine.
“Our Christmas parties were fancy dress. It would go on until maybe eight or nine in the morning, then you just go in fancy dress straight to training. You’d come in your Mickey Mouse costume, or whatever it was.”
‘Dalglish let me have it’
At one memorable party, John, 58, transformed himself into pop legend Tina Turner — and a few fellas gave him admiring glances.
He said: “There was the fishnet tights, cowboy boots, the little fur coat and have the stockings just below the skirt with the garter belt, and the wig, the make-up.
“During the night I had some close scares because after people got drunk they really didn’t know it was John Barnes.
“If you’re in the toilet with a lot of drunk men and you were fairly attractive because I was a little bit slimmer then.”
Recalling the next day’s training session, John added: “I didn’t have to turn up as Tina Turner because I could take my tights off and I would go in in the skirt and the boots.
“It was fine, though, because Kenny Dalglish was with us — and he was the manager. You could get away with anything if you were a good footballer.”
Nobody could argue that John wasn’t a top flight player. After signing for Watford in 1981, aged 17, he was playing for the national team within two years.
In 1984, age just 20, John came to international prominence by scoring a memorable wondergoal for England against Brazil.
Taking the ball on his chest, he began an eight-second run from the left, beating six players before knocking the ball past keeper Roberto Costa.
The dazzled crowd in the 56,000-capacity Maracanã stadium gave him a standing ovation — and that opening goal just before half-time set up the Three Lions for a 2-0 victory in the friendly.
Left winger John signed for Liverpool in 1987. During his decade with the club they won two league titles and became adored by reds fans.
He describes Scousers as “his people” and explains that is why he still lives in the city.
But from manager Dalglish, the love was conditional. John could get away with bad behaviour, until he didn’t perform on the pitch.
He recalled the time he and a fellow player got drunk and decided to strip off before jumping into Liverpool’s Albert Dock.
John recalls: “Kenny Dalglish got told the next day but never mentioned it.
“But a month later I had a bad game and he came down at half time and that’s when he let me have it — because he’d remembered.”
In contrast to other players seduced by the party lifestyle, he remained more anchored by being married to first wife Suzy, with whom he had four children — Jamie, Jordan, Jemma and Jasmine.
He went on to marry a second time to Andrea, with whom he has two daughters — Isabella and Tia.
His fame grew and reached a peak in 1990, just before that year’s World Cup in Italy.
In the late Eighties into the early Nineties we were celebrating most nights. It got messy from an alcoholic point of view for a lot of the big drinkers. But of course you couldn’t make excuses to not come into training and play properly.
His rap was the standout moment on New Order’s official England single, World In Motion — and to this day he can recall every word.
But only a handful of his team-mates turned up to the recording because they thought the track would be a flop like the previous World Cup song.
John said: “The rest of the players said: ‘Well the song’s going to be rubbish again because it was in 1986’, so they didn’t turn up. Only six people did the song.
“When we got to the studios and we saw that it was New Order we realised it was going to be a proper song with a proper group.
“But before we did the song they said, ‘You can either get royalties or you can get £5,000 to share between all 25 of you.’
“All the players got together and they said: ‘Do royalties mean if we don’t sell one record we don’t get any money?’ They went: ‘Yeah’ so they said: ‘We’ll take the £5,000.’
“Then it was No1 for three months.”
‘Cowering in corners’
After his playing career ended John went on to be a manager and a pundit. More recently he has appeared on a string of TV shows including Strictly Come Dancing, Who Do You Think You Are? and Celebrity Big Brother.
He has also appeared on programmes such as BBC1’s Question Time talking about race and discrimination — a subject he has plenty of experience of.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, John came to the UK when he was 12 and lived in London.
Like so many black players emerging in the game in the Eighties, he faced horrendous abuse, with chants and monkey gestures from crowds during games.
In a defining image of the abuse that non-white players had to deal with at the time, John is shown in one photo kicking a banana away that had been hurled on to the grass.
He said: “That picture with the banana, I don’t even remember doing that because it happened whenever we played.
“You had National Front banners in the crowd. “This is what players had been through all the time so it wasn’t shocking to me because I’d seen this before.
“But I did not endure the everyday reality of the black experience. I had it on a Saturday, but then on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any restaurant I wanted to go to, if I wanted to go to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister (I could).
“Whereas the everyday experience of the black working class, this was something they had to deal with all their lives.
“I remember going down the Holloway Road in London and I’m on a coach. I played for Watford and there were lots of Arsenal fans there and they’re throwing stuff at the coach and racially abusing me.
“Interspersed among them you have average black people going about their everyday lives, shopping, and they’re cowering in corners — they’re ducking, they’re hiding.
“I was an elite footballer. I was on the coach. But nobody is speaking for them.”
Although fighting racism in football has come on leaps and bounds over the decades since then, John says he believes many black Brits still have to suffer discrimination on a daily basis — and says it has to change.
He said: “Here we are 30 years later still talking about ‘the elite’ rather than what’s going on in the inner cities.
“There’s invisible banana skins and unspoken racist abuse to black people every day of their lives. And nobody is talking about it.”
- Kate Garraway’s Life Stories starts tonight on ITV at 9pm.