Striker edges closer to delivering on his promise
Tyrone Barnett was elated to get his first Wimbledon goal at Charlton last Saturday, but the bad news is that he’s moved one step closer to singing in front of our supporters at a game!
For those supporters who may have missed it in the programme for Sheffield United, we republish Tyrone’s interesting article below.
Tyrone Barnett aims to enjoy every minute of playing for AFC Wimbledon. He did not turn professional until he was 24, and his career looked to be taking off when he made a million-pound move to Peterborough United, though his progress then stalled after a run of injury-hit seasons. But his late start and subsequent lay-offs he’s taken in his stride – what concerns him more is whether he’ll need to keep a promise made at last Saturday’s Man of the Match awards!
The striker signed by Neal Ardley just days before 2016/17 got under way certainly doesn’t take his profession for granted, after a long spell out of full-time football that included working as a van driver, a postman and a security guard. But Tyrone Barnett’s best performance in a Wimbledon shirt, against Chesterfield came at a price.
“I’ve set up a deal with fans that if I score 15 goals, I have to do an initiation song on stage,” said Tyrone. “I don’t know why I agreed to it – the song would be picked for me, and I’d be dreading it. I guess I’d take a song for 15 goals, though!”
Such a return on their investment would certainly please the management team, and Tyrone says he’s determined to repay the faith shown in him by Neal Ardley. But, he says, his game is more than just about goals.
“I feel very welcome here, and it’s nice to be at a club where I’m wanted. That’s the most important thing for me, as I’ve been at clubs where I’ve not been wanted and that’s a totally different story. Every day is made much easier when a manager wants you there and wants you do well. It also helps when he likes you as a person. I’ll try and repay that with hard work and goals.
“My most prolific season was when I joined Peterborough from Crawley, as I scored over 20 goals in all for both clubs. I’ve noticed that the strikers I play with seem to score a lot of goals – maybe that’s due to my presence or me making the right runs. Defences seem to leave the other striker free when I’m playing. I’d like to think I can get 15 goals with a good run of games.”
“I’d played against Wimbledon a few times and I did research about the club before I signed, but I’ve learned a lot more from staff and fans since I joined. You get to understand how much this club means to the people. It gives you an extra edge to stop and talk to fans and then to go that extra mile on the pitch. The fans always seem to be behind us, whether we win, lose or draw. There’s a great bunch of fans here – I’ve never experienced fans like this before.”
Released by West Bromwich Albion as a 15-year-old, it would be another nine years before Tyrone experienced being a professional footballer. He was brought up in Aston, Birmingham, and supported his local club, Villa as a child. He signed for Macclesfield Town from non-league Hednesford Town.
“Gary Simpson, who was manager at Macclesfield, rang me up while I was driving a van and said he was interested in signing me. That was really the start of my professional football career. I’d been released by West Brom and was now in my early twenties, and it just hadn’t happened for me. But it didn’t worry me too much – if my life was just to play part-time football and do a job, I was happy with that.
“I had two young children, and as long as I got my hours done as a van driver, I could get back to see them. I used to get up early, at five or six in the morning, and then I was back to see my kids by mid-afternoon. I had a lot of different jobs because I was with an agency, and they just sent me anywhere! I was a security guard at job centres, and a postman, and I did office work, including working for Halifax. I also worked at British Car Auctions.
“Ever since I was a kid, it was my dream to become a professional footballer, and to be able to say that I’ve accomplished that is a nice feeling. I enjoy every day of it. I had a really good first season with Macclesfield, but I would never have thought that teams would want to pay money for me. Crawley paid money to sign me, and that gave me a lot of belief in myself. Then, six or seven months later, Peterborough United paid £1 million for me. Just 18 months before, I’d been driving a van for a living, and all of a sudden I was playing Championship football! I just tried to enjoy it as much as I could.”
Tyrone’s move to Peterborough came in 2012, the year that Jamie Vardy started his own meteoric rise by signing for Leicester City from Fleetwood Town, then in non-league. Though Tyrone was unable to make any more progress up the ladder as his career stalled at Peterborough, he feels very fortunate to be earning a living from playing football.
“I remember that Jamie Vardy moved at around the same time as me, and he’s obviously gone further and further. I got bad injuries at Peterborough and didn’t get opportunities, due to politics and stuff like that. But everything happens for a reason in life, including me not turning professional until I was 24.
“You need some kind of ability to make it as a footballer. If you don’t come through an academy where they engineer you into being the player they want, you just have to keep working hard. The chairman when I was playing at my first club, Rushall Olympic, used to tell me, ‘Keep working hard and your goals will come.’ I got to experience real life with different jobs outside football. With a young family, it was perfect for me at the time.
“Every day in football, I do not take it for granted. I buzz off it and I’m hungrier to play after coming into football so late. I want to carry on for as long as I can because I feel like I’ve missed out on a few years. Hopefully I can keep playing football until my legs fall off!”
Tyrone feels that the work ethic and talent in Wimbledon’s squad will make the Dons competitive in League One this season. “This squad has a lot of ability, and the work ethic here is something I’ve not seen before in a bunch of players for a long time. They all want to do well and they are so close – maybe it’s something to do with the promotion that was achieved here. We’re unbeaten in four games now, and the win against Chesterfield was important. The lads all know we can do well in this league.”
If Tyrone can recapture his peak form, it will certain help the Dons to be competitive – and just maybe he won’t mind taking centre-stage in the middle bar later this season!
Watch out for an interview with Jon Meades in Saturday’s programme for the Shrewsbury game.