John Barnwell was born on 24 December 1938 and played 151 games for Arsenal between 1957 and 1964. Thus he had the misfortune to be with Arsenal during The Darkness, playing under Jack Crayston, George Swindin and Billy Wright and was precluded from any chance of winning a trophy.
After playing as an amateur for Bishop Auckland he moved to Arsenal in 1955 turned pro in 1956 and started playing for the first team in the match against Sunderland on 13 April 1957.
He then did his military service and so did not have a real chance to get into the team until 1958/9 playing behind the main strikers, as an attacking midfielder before becoming a defensive midfielder in 1961.
Throughout that period he was in and out of the team because of a somewhat erratic nature of his form – and of course his managers’ constant search for anything even vaguely resembling a winning formula. Eventually he moved to Nottingham Forest in March 1964 for £40k, and played a major part in them becoming league runners up in 1967
After that he moved to Sheffield United in 1970, but retired after just nine games because of an ankle injury. Thus he is one of those men who played over 300 games in the top flight but never won a medal.
But he had more success as a manager, working with Peterborough United as they were promoted to the Third Division, and then took over as manager and nearly taking them up again. After that he was manager at Wolverhampton, and indeed was there when Arsenal beat Wolverhampton in the FA Cup Semifinal in 1979. But he did win the League Cup with them the following season.
There were no more honours, and with Wolverhampton at the foot of the league in 1982 he resigned. He coached in Saudi Arabia and Greece before managing Notts County for one season, Walsall for one season and Northampton Town for one season.
In February 1996 he joined the League Managers Association (the trade union for managers of league teams – it is the organisation that gives out the Manager of Year award) and became their chief executive, and is now a Vice President. At the time the LMA was young (it was formed in 1992) and Barnwell had a major impact on its growth and recognition.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches
Other sites from the same team…