TEMECULA, Calif. — Local NPSL side Temecula FC held a special Q&A session on Thursday evening with former England international Earl Barrett. The defender imparted his words of wisdom to the young players of Temecula’s team.
Barrett, a former teammate of Temecula FC head coach Willie Donachie, spent his entire playing career in England, with Manchester City, Chester City, Oldham, Aston Villa, Everton, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. Still Oldham’s most expensive signing in club history, Barrett, known as “The Pearl,” received several England call-ups between 1991-93.
Donachie praised Barrett during the talk, saying he was not the most talented player around, but had a higher level of dedication and “mental strength” that helped him persevere and grow in his career.
Barrett emphasized that dedication to the players as well, recommending the best way to improve individually and help the team is to continually challenge each other and push each other in training.
When asked by a Temecula goalkeeper about the best goalkeeper he played with, Barrett singled out a legendary Everton stopper: “Neville Southall is certainly one of the best ‘keepers I played beside. He loved to get wet and muddy and dirty, dive at feet and take people out. He loved all that, but he was a good professional as well.”
The Q&A, which also featured contributions from Portland Timbers scout Matt Martin, provided players not only a chance to talk to people who have played and worked in the highest levels of the sport but to see the components necessary to break into the professional game.
As for Barrett, he also spoke briefly to SoccerNation about his visit to Southern California. Now an academy coach at Stoke City, he was asked to reflect on the growing popularity of soccer in the United States.
“I came here [in the] mid-90s and it was exploding then,” he said. “However, it seems to have exploded even further since then, but only in the last five, six years.
“And of course you’ve got the likes of Beckham who came over here, who’s really helped the sport explode and because of that, more big-time players followed that path. And of course I think it’s good for the players who are — alright, they can’t play at the level of Premier League football. However, they’ve still got some running in their legs, they can still contribute and I think the names that come over here to the United States help the game, raise the profile, and hopefully raise the level of the ability of players as well.”
Barrett was also asked about what changes he’s noticed in the sport since he stopped playing professionally.
“The game has speeded up, it’s become a lot faster. I think you’ve got a lot of players who have a lot more athletic ability but they’ve also got that fantastic technical ability as well, added to that. So I think you’ve got players who can run quick, they’ve got endurance, but they’ve got technical ability as well,” he noted.
“A lot more players have got those abilities in one go, so obviously it does make it quite a potent mixture, if you can get a player to make the right decisions and play with the other players and play as a team.”