Giles Barnes relishing dream start as a Reggae Boy

Monday, March 30, 2015

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ENGLAND-BORN Giles Barnes had long coveted wearing the black, green and gold jersey of Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, and when he finally did last Friday night during the friendly international against Venezuela, he left an indelible mark with a sumptuous strike which helped his team to a rare victory over the South Americans.

Now, he's looking to help the Reggae Boyz add to their already rich history.

"It is a great feeling to score, but for me it's all about the win, it's all about the team because we have been working hard. We came in from the start of the week trying to set up how we want to play and it was important for us to get the win, so it is the team that makes the dream work and that's how we are living right now," explained Barnes at the post- match press conference.

The Venezuelans had taken a 13th minute lead courtesy of a strike from left wing-back Gabriel Cichero, but Barnes, a sturdy 26-year-old, who is comfortable as either an attacking midfielder or striker, brought his team to level two minutes later at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

It was a strike from a player of really high quality, and Jamaica's head coach Winfried Schaefer and Barnes' striker partner on the night, Darren Mattocks, were left pleased.

"It was the first time we were playing together, and I think what we produced was a sign of things to come. He's a really highly rated player in the MLS. I think we did extremely well for the team tonight and it has set the platform for the future," said Mattocks, who hit Jamaica's winner on the hour-mark.

Barnes, who was forced to decline an earlier invitation to join up with the Reggae Boyz some years ago due to injury, explained that it was easy for him to settle in with the group, as he has been friends with a number of the Reggae Boyz for many years from his playing days in England when he represented Derby County and West Bromwich Albion. He has also represented England Under-19s.

"I've known a lot of the Boyz for a long time, so it was easy for me to fit in. I've known some of the Boyz from playing in England -- me and Wes (Morgan) go back 12 years and he's my roommate as well and he has looked after me. Obviously, I've played with Jermaine Taylor (currently at Houston), Je-Vaughn Watson (previously at Houston), me and Mattocks are friends off the pitch as well, so it is pretty simple to get in with the Boyz and they have made me feel welcome.

"Obviously, coming in and scoring a goal would always help you settle, but as I said earlier it wasn't about me scoring, it was about the team winning and that's what we did today. When you are friends off the pitch, it helps you on the pitch as well," he added.

Born in Barking, UK, Barnes said to be 1.83m and tipping the scales at 82kg, is eligible to represent Jamaica through his paternal grandparents who were born here. His late grandfather Thomas Barnes is from St Elizabeth.

But with Jamaica set to participate in the Copa America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, followed shortly by the start of the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Series, Barnes is looking forward to cement a place in Schaefer's squad as the Boyz set their sights on Russia.

-- Ian Burnett

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