John Barnes warns against England playing youngsters at World Cup

Last Updated: 01/01/14 10:36am

England's young lions could be 'destroyed' by a disappointing World Cup experience, John Barnes told Goals on Sunday.

With Roy Hodgson's men heading to the Brazil showpiece in 2014 with relatively low expectations, compared with previous major tournaments, it has been suggested England take a young squad to South America to gain vital experience ahead of Euro 2016.

"It's ok to say 'send them to the World Cup, they've got nothing to lose' but let them not play well and see the reaction we get."

John Barnes

However, former England winger Barnes, who made his name with a stunning solo goal against Brazil in the Maracana in 1984, says that plan has the potential to backfire.

"We need to integrate the young players slowly, rather than put pressure on them," said Barnes.

"It's ok to say 'send them to the World Cup, they've got nothing to lose' but let them not play well and see the reaction we get.

"The problem we have is we have a lot of players on 90-100 caps, so we're bringing in a lot of young players with no experience and they're going to be under pressure; we're going to say 'do well in the World Cup for us'.

"That could actually harm their England career, especially if they don't do particularly well.

"I'm not writing this World Cup off at all but I think we really have to look to the next Euros to say 'let's try and develop some of these players for that'.

"In between the World Cup and Euros, in friendlies, that is when you have to give them the experience. Don't give them the experience in World Cups because that's when it can destroy them."


Barnes picked out Liverpool wide man Raheem Sterling as an example of how too much expectation too early in a player's career can negatively affect their performance on the pitch.

Sterling received his first England call-up at the age of 17 in September 2012, when he'd only made seven appearances for Liverpool's first-team.

He made his international debut shortly after that in a friendly with Sweden, but has yet to add to that solitary cap.

A dip in form saw him miss the cut for several subsequent senior England squads but a promising run of recent performances - including three goals in his last five games - has seen his name move back into the frame for a spot on the plane to Brazil.

"Raheem Sterling, for instance, has done well to come through the problems he's had because I don't think he should have been in the England camp at that particular time," said Barnes.

"He'd only had 10 good games for Liverpool. He then went backwards and is now coming again."

Click on the video above to see John Barnes talking about his goal at the Maracana - and why he struggled to reproduce that quality regularly for England