At the start of the season, not many football fans would have put Harvey Barnes in their English team for Euro 2020, but the Leicester striker comes from a family who knows everything about defying the odds.
Harvey’s father, Paul Barnes – a highly efficient goal scorer in the 1990s – inspired one of the most surprising results of the last century when he scored twice for York City – and then played in the third layer – to get them to a 3- 0 win to lead Manchester United at Old Trafford, in a League Cup draw in September 1995.
Although the inclusion of Barnes in the Gareth Southgate team would not be a shock to rival that result, it would still be a remarkably impressive increase: just over a year ago, the 22-year-old was still waiting for his first Premier League start .
Harvey Barnes was able to penetrate his way to England’s Euro 2020 team after shining on Leicester
He played a key role for the Foxes because they are third in the Premier League after 26 games
Barnes will hope that his performances have caught the attention of the English boss Gareth Southgate
19-20 SEASONAL STATES OF HARVEY BARNES
Premier League apps: 24 (6 as sub)
Premier League minutes: 1,495
Premier League goals: 4
Premier League helps: 6
Pass success: 75.8 percent
If everyone is fit, it is hard to look beyond Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho for the broad attacking roles in the England opening match against Croatia on June 14. But which of the other candidates has more claims than Barnes outside of these two? Marcus Rashford is on the side with a long-term back injury and Callum Hudson-Odoi has only started seven league games for Chelsea this period.
Even if Barnes doesn’t make it this time, his moment will certainly come. This is an impressive story of a player who was not a teenage superstar, but through smart coaching at the Leicester academy, smart loan movements, a flawless attitude and rapid improvement under the coaching of Brendan Rodgers.
Make no mistake: Barnes did it the hard way. A promising athlete at school – he excelled in sprinting and running – Barnes has benefited from the guidance of a father who played for eight clubs in a 16-year career in the Football League.
“If you’ve been in the industry, you know it can always be ups and downs,” Barnes told senior Sportsmail. “People ask me why I am not his agent – I want to be his father. I want to be able to congratulate him if he does well and be there for him if he doesn’t.
‘When we talk, I always start with positive information. When we talk after a game, I ask him questions: “What about this? Could you have done better?” We discuss it that way. You always know when he wants to talk about something.
The rise of Barnes is the result of hard work on the training field in Leicester and also of loans
The arrival of Brendan Rodgers as Leicester manager last February helped his development
‘At the age of 18 I wanted him to play full-time football, Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, play with adult men, be kicked.
“Harvey is someone who will flourish and develop as soon as he feels settled. It may take him a month to settle somewhere, but his loans have always gone well.
‘With his moving movements, I have always impressed him that once you join a club, in all respects. Buy what they do. Don’t rush home after training; stay with the players and go out to dinner.
“When he was in Barnsley, he shared a flat with (Bournemouth winger) David Brooks, who was in Sheffield United. They knew each other from playing for England at the Toulon tournament in 2017.
‘At West Brom he would spend time with senior players such as Jake Livermore and Gareth Barry. It helps you develop that little bit of confidence for when you go back to a dressing room in the Premier League. “
Football runs in the Barnes family with Harvey’s father Paul (right) a scorer in the 1990s
Barnes made steady progress with both Milton Keynes and Barnsley, before taking a huge step forward in West Brom last season. Given the freedom to express themselves by then Albion boss Darren Moore, Barnes delivered nine goals and six assists in 26 games.
When he was recalled by Leicester in January 2019, Albion – rightly – feared that it would derail their bid for promotion of the championship. Barnes himself would have been more than happy to stay with The Hawthorns throughout the campaign because he feared that his playing time would decrease under Claude Puel.
Looking back, it seems like the best career move that Barnes could have made. By the time Rodgers replaced Puel last February, Barnes was firmly in the first team image after starting the previous four games.
And when Rodgers demanded more significant contributions from his broad players after a 2-1 win over Burnley in October, Barnes answered the call – he now has four goals and six assists in the league.
“He has clarity about his role,” Rodgers said. ‘He knows where he needs to be in terms of goals and creativity if he wants to be at the top of this competition in a team.
Barnes joined MK Dons in January 2017 for the remainder of the 2017-18 and was impressed
His next loan saw him coming to Barnsley, where he scored five goals in 23 championship games
The 22-year-old loaned the first half of last season to West Brom – and seemed to them
‘Everyone can see that his speed and walking power are phenomenal, but in tight spaces he has improved, and that is the element of his game that keeps getting better. He has good feet and he can combine, and there aren’t many who can stay with him when he bursts in the box.
“That is development and improvement. It is what we must see. He does finishing exercises – left foot, right foot – and he will do video analysis, but he wants to improve and that is also important.
“He asks questions -” What can I do better? How can I improve? ” – and then he wants to do it. If you want to be at the top of the game, it’s a constant evolution of your talent, and that’s what we’re seeing with him now. “
It is intriguing that those who know Barnes best believe that he may not stay left in the long run. While playing youth football, his best work was done as an attacking midfielder or No. 10.
An England under 21 international, he would like to win a senior cap for the euro this summer
He moved wide when he joined Milton Keynes, feeling that he did not have the physical status to play centrally in League One, but Barnes showed West Brom the damage he could do if he went in from the flank.
“I don’t think he will end up as a left-sided attacker,” his father added. “You’ll see him come in more in the next two, three, four years. He will end up as a No. 10 or attacking midfielder. He can go up and down and break the lines.
“In school and provincial games, he always had a great ability to run the ball. He has always had a real love for the game, really enjoying football. I’ve never heard him say, “I don’t want to go inside.” He has always been enthusiastic about it. “
With Champions League football on the horizon and a place in England to fight for, Barnes’ enthusiasm will not diminish quickly.