Last on MOTD: Giles Barnes’ Fantasy League woes

THERE was a time when West Brom midfielder Giles Barnes was mentioned in the same breath as Gareth Bale. To prove it, here’s a quote from Glenn Roeder, then Newcastle’s manager, in early 2007, before either player got a chance in the Premier League:

“The only two players I am interested in from the Championship are Giles Barnes and Gareth Bale,” Roeder said. “They are two outstanding talents and the sort of players we should be looking at. A lot of top clubs fancy them.”

Bale, you might have heard, is pretty well these days. Barnes, who is still only 22, is attempting to rebuild his career at West Brom after a pretty grim run with injuries that stalled his progress at Derby.

In addition to both being admired by Glenn Roeder during their Championship days (Barnes at Derby, Bale at Southampton), and both being best known for playing in an attacking wide midfield role (Barnes on the right, Bale on the left), the two players have something else in common: A long run of Premier League appearances without victory.

When Bale finally appeared in a Premier League victory with Tottenham at the 25th attempt by coming on as a late substitute in their 5-0 win over Burnley in September 2009, he shook off an unwanted record – and passed it on to Barnes.

That record: the highest number of Premier League appearances by a player never to have appeared on a winning side. Barnes had played 21 times in the Derby side that achieved all of 11 points en route to a humiliating relegation in 2008 – and missed their only league victory that season, against Newcastle.

A loan spell at Fulham in 2009 might have given him the chance to end that run, but injury prevented him from making a single appearance at Craven Cottage.

On the opening day of this season, Barnes extended his winless run to 22 games by appearing for the last six minutes of West Brom’s defeat at Chelsea. Not that Barnes could reasonably have expected to do much to prevent that loss – Albion were five down when he came on, eventually losing 6-0.

Happily, Barnes avoided passing Bale’s run of 24 winless matches a week later, when he came on at half-time and helped West Brom beat Sunderland 1-0. (And so Barnes’ winless run record has passed, as far as I can tell, to his former Derby team-mate Emanuel Villa, who won none out of 16 Premier League games at Pride Park in 2008 and has since returned to the Mexican league, no doubt traumatised by his English experience.)

Barnes has taken part in another Premier League victory since then, appearing as a substitute when Albion beat Birmingham 3-1 in mid-September. However, he has also appeared in three draws and five defeats, leaving him with a record of two victories from 31 Premier League appearances. It’s better than none, but it’s still not great.

And there’s one first that Barnes is still waiting for. He has yet to win a Premier League game in which he has played from the start. Fourteen of his 21 winless top-flight appearances for Derby were starts. Albion’s game against Stoke yesterday represented his 15th chance to put that statistic to bed.

MOTD’s final match: West Brom 0 Stoke 3
Commentator: Steve Bower again

Had Barnes made his first Premier League start for West Brom a month ago, he would surely have broken his run. It’s only four weeks since they beat Fulham 2-1 to climb to fourth in the Premier League, having already won at Arsenal and drawn at Manchester United. Four defeats out of five since then have dropped Albion to 14th.

Barnes got his starting opportunity in a team out of form because of an injury to Chris Brunt. And he got that chance against Stoke, a team West Brom had beaten once in their last 25 league meetings before yesterday. Talented as he is, timing and luck don’t seem to be Barnes’ strong points.

Apart from anything else, had Albion faced Stoke a month ago, there’s no way they would have had two penalties given against them. Stoke couldn’t buy a spot-kick not so long ago, as Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole might just recall. (Double handball on the line? Possibly even behind the line? Play on.)

But – and here’s the encouragement for Barnes – things do have a habit of evening themselves up. Kenwyne Jones might have been tripped by Scott Carson for Stoke’s first penalty – or he might have just fallen over the goalkeeper’s knee. It looked a soft award. Matt Etherington converted.

Simon Cox’s foul on Dean Whitehead for the second spot-kick was more clear cut, and Jon Walters scored, before finding the net again in stoppage time. Stoke’s third successive win lifted them to eighth. Not bad for a team who were 17th two weeks ago.

By the law of averages, Barnes must surely, surely, be overdue a similar winning run. For now, though, I’d probably steer clear of having him in your Fantasy League team.

Gubbometer

1. Wigan: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
2. Fulham: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 0)
3. Stoke: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
4. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 1)
5.
Bolton: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
6. West Brom: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 0)
7. Everton: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
8. Blackburn: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 4)
9. Birmingham: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
10. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
11. West Ham: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
12. Sunderland: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
13. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
14=. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
14=. Tottenham: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)

2L=On second last (Blackpool 2 Wolves 1)
3L=On third last (Liverpool 3 West Ham 0)

(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony at Westminster Abbey, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Prince William, Tony Gubba and Kate Middleton, with music from Queen.)

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