Monday, 5 March 2012

Sportsmen I love. Part Three. Ashley Luke Barnes

This may come as a surprise to anyone who has listened to me moan about the Albion over the last couple of seasons, which, in fairness, will have been quite a lot of people.

Almost everyone I know in fact.

However, after his two goals during the recent home win over Ipswich it suddenly struck me. I love Ashley Barnes.

Gone are the days when I bemoaned his lack of clinical finishing and focused purely on his apparent wastefulness in front of goal.

I managed to last an entire season arguing about his lack of ability. Yes, even though he managed to notch an impressive 18 goals in 42 games.

There was even one fairly awkward 90 minutes of tongue-bitery while sat next to his other half as the Seagulls number nine blazed chance after chance over the bar.

However, in football, I will now readily admit, the stats DON'T lie. Barnes IS a good striker at this level. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly an idiot.

In 81 Brighton games he has found the net on 30 occasions. That is one goal every two and a bit matches. Not bad considering many of those run-outs will have been either a) Off the bench, or b) not as an out-and-out frontman.

This season Gus Poyet has employed Barnes more often than not as a wide player in a front three, or, on occasion, as an attacking midfield player. Baffling it may be to those in the stands, but Barnes determination, hard work and commitment cannot be in dispute. Wherever he is asked to play, he does his best.

In an age of the footballing ego, here is a young man happy to take one for the team. Happy to put a shift in. Happy to spend large parts of the game chasing back rather than hunting for goals.

Since a man of the match performance away at Selhurst Park Barnes has gone from strength to strength. So much so that fans have been arguing for his inclusion ahead of record signing Craig Mackail-Smith.

Last term he looked like the ever-eager-to-please dog to Glenn Murray's doing-you-a-favour-by-being-here cat. This year he is almost unrecognisable to the rough around the edges prospect who rocked up at the Withdean fresh from a loan spell at Eastbourne Borough.

He may not be the most skillful in the Stripes. He may not be the most deadly in front of goal. He may even misplace a few passes each game. But his willingness to learn, adapt his game and work hard to improve himself as a player is second to none.

And for that reason I love Ashley Luke Barnes. Less than a year ago I would never have dreamt about committing such a proclemation to the web. Now it seems natural.

So come on Seagulls fans. Show Ashley some love.

1 comment:

  1. He's our new Gary Hart, I think, insofar as he's prepared to play anywhere, keeps his mouth shut, works his butt off and comes back from being dropped occasionally by just digging in and getting on with it.

    Unless he spends ten years here as OGH did (unlikely these days), I realise he'll never be as popular as Harty, but his efforts remind me of the man. Nice entry.