When Giles Barnes won Derby County’s Young Player of the Year for the 2006–07 season under the management of Billy Davies, many predicted he would be going in the same direction as former Rams prodigy Tom Huddlestone, who had been sold to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur for a £2.5 million pound fee in 2005.
Giles Barnes made his debut as a 17-year old under Phil Brown and a season later he was an integral part of the side that won promotion into the Premier league via the Play off final in which he set up Derby’s winning goal against West Bromwich Albion. The fleet footed, skilful, 18-year old talent was gearing up for his Premier League introduction on the back of promotion elation.
Fast forward to 2015 and Barnes is now still just 24 but he is a long way away from where he expected to be at this stage of his career.
Without a doubt Barnes has been unlucky on the injury front. He has sustained more than his fair share of injuries for such a young player. Unknowingly he had played on with a broken foot in that playoff final and it meant that he missed pre-season as the Rams prepared for life in the Premier League in the 2007-8 season.
Barnes was frustrated with an injury plagued campaign and didn’t play many matches. Derby though were a very poor team that wasn’t competing at all and the Rams were relegated straight back into the second tier after a record low points total for the season. One win and eleven points made for miserable reading for all concerned but for Barnes, his misery was compounded when his belated season was brought to an end with a serious knee injury that would keep him out for yet another pre-season.
After missing out on the Premier League with Derby he was desperate to get back there as soon as possible and joined Fulham on loan in the 08-09 season to prove that although Derby couldn’t, he could cut it in the Premier League. However, under Roy Hodgson he didn’t make a single appearance. At the end of the season, unsurprisingly, Hodgson had no plans to make the Barnes signing a permanent one. He just wasn’t a Hodgson type of player. In the two season after the Championship promotion Barnes had hardly played any games.
Back at Derby and just his luck. He was injured again in a pre-season friendly against Stoke City. Injuries were now a regular occurrence and he was released midway through the 09/10 season. He signed for West Bromwich Albion in February of that same season and they were promoted to the Premier League. It looked as though he would finally be at a club where he could get some games under his belt in the top flight under a progressive young manager in Roberto Di Matteo. However after two and half seasons of the treatment table he had to get back into some form but he wasn’t pulling up trees and hadn’t found the back of the net for the Albion who desperately needed points to stay in the premier league in 11/12. With the team in 17th place and having witnessed thirteen losses in eighteen matches, the West Brom hierarchy swung the managerial axe and opted for experience and appointed Roy Hodgson who had just been sacked by Liverpool. Giles Barnes’ exit from the Hawthorns was immediately on the cards; Hodgson didn’t fancy a player like Giles Barnes for a relegation scrap. He hadn’t fancied him at Fulham either. The fact that the Baggies ended up in a comfortable 11th spot certainly doesn’t do Hodgson’s case any harm though.
In 2011/12 he found himself at Doncaster Rovers after a move to Nottingham Forest failed to materialise where Steve McClaren was keen on working with him. He played a full season at Doncaster but they were relegated after finishing rock bottom of the division on just 36 points. Agent Willie Mckay had been in charge of bringing in a huge number of ex-premier league players who were no more than mercenaries at a club like Doncaster; El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda and Habib Beye to name a few. Giles Barnes had now found himself being labelled in the same mould as these over the hill players and Doncaster’s abject season only lessened his reputation. His time at Doncaster had come to an end and a change was on the horizon.
At 24 years of age he is now out in the United States playing for Houston Dynamo in the MLS. Since joining them in 2012 he has done well and scored 20 goals in 71 appearances. However, to go to the American league at such a young age maybe shows his lack of ambition or self-belief that he can’t now make it back at the top level in England. There can be no doubts about the huge drop in standard. On the other hand maybe the nature of the English League doesn’t suit his game and he doesn’t have the physical make up to endure the knocks. A few seasons stateside may do him good to get back to playing regularly but a prolonged career over in the MLS- the land of the nearly retired- would certainly not do his early talent the justice it deserves and he may well prove be a case of; What happened to that derby Wonderkid:Giles Barnes.