John Barnes was always likely to be given a warm send off at the end of the latest Tales from the Vicarage Live, but re-enacting his rap from World in Motion tipped the balance even more in his favour as many in the audience at Watford Palace Theatre took to their feet to applaud him.

The performance of his famous contribution to New Order’s England 1990 World Cup song and recreating photos with Hornets fans were audience pleasing highlights of the latest Watford-themed show hosted by Sky Sports News presenter and Hornets fan Adam Leventhal on Friday. Yet the most talented player to ever wear a Watford shirt in the eyes of many was more than a good sport; he proved an engaging guest, speaking with affection and good humour as he looked back on his sizeable involvement in six of the greatest seasons in the club’s history under Graham Taylor.

“I always love coming back to Watford,” the 79-cap England international said after the show. “I don’t come back very often. The fans are good, nice people. It’s a lovely place.”

He continued: “I was at Liverpool for ten years, but Watford is my first club, my first love, it made a big impact on me. It’s a special place and it was a special time.”

Despite these words, there are some Hornets fans who have questioned whether Barnes looks back on his time at Watford with the same warmth as the decade he spent at Anfield, given the majority of his comments in the media are about the club with whom he won two league titles.

It is a perception the 53-year-old confronted passionately, explaining in a general sense: “People don’t want to talk about Watford. If I’m talking to people and they say ‘you played 10 years at Liverpool’ and I go ‘let’s talk about Watford’, they’re not interested. If people want to talk to me about Watford I do, but everything of course is about Liverpool. I don’t choose it that way, that’s what actually happens.

“Right now, if you ask me about Watford I’ll talk about Watford and if people talk about Watford I’ll talk about Watford, but if I’m talking about football all people want to know about are the big clubs. I can’t turn it around to say ‘when I was at Watford, this is what we did’.”

Friday’s show did afford Barnes the chance to talk about his years at Watford extensively though, as Leventhal spoke to the son of a military officer through his childhood in Jamaica, moving to London, playing centre-half for three years for Stowe Boys Club because he was their most disciplined player, to joining Watford from Sudbury Court, making his first-team debut as a 17-year-old and beyond.

Many of the audience may have been surprised to learn the former winger, who made 296 appearances in all competitions for the Hornets, doesn’t remember too many of his 85 goals for the club, although he relished looking back on his memorable lob in the 1984 FA Cup sixth round 3-1 win against Birmingham City; “It wasn’t against Birmingham, it was against Tony Coton”, he beamed of the goal against his former teammate in what he regards as “probably my favourite game for Watford”.

The show, the first times Tales from the Vicarage Live has had only one guest, took place against a stage backdrop of large images of Barnes created by Rocket Graphics from Watford Observer archive photos.

There was also a reading from Colin Mace of Watford podcast Hornet Heaven, but a constant theme throughout was the esteem with which Barnes held the club’s greatest ever manager, regarding him as the biggest influence on his career.

“As a young footballer, I couldn’t have wished for a better start,” Barnes said after the show of Graham Taylor. “I always say I would have hated to have gone to Liverpool as a 17-year-old with all the trappings that it brings in terms of the pressures. And not just the pressures, but in terms of the environment that Liverpool was at that particular time, whereas I was brought up in a very disciplined way by Graham - one of respect, one of humility which when I got to 23 and went to Liverpool I continued in that way.

“For any young player – Nigel Callaghan, Steve Terry, Kenny Jackett – and even the older players he had a big impact on - Pat Rice who did the double with Arsenal – he was just an incredible football man and I don’t think my career would be anywhere near what it was if it wasn’t for him. Obviously I went to Liverpool and things then took off even further but it wouldn’t have happened had I not had my first success at Watford.”

Barnes, who now spends most of his time out of the country working as an ambassador for Liverpool and for television overseas, acknowledged Taylor continues to influence his views on many areas, including how football has evolved.

“I’m old school,” he admitted. “My ideas on football, on life, on everything, a lot of it is formulated by Graham Taylor. Graham Taylor couldn’t manage now, I’m not sure Alex Ferguson could manage now because in football now you have everybody who knows more than you. You’ve got owners and chairmen and fans who know more than you - look at Arsene Wenger; whereas I said earlier on stage even Elton (John) acknowledged Graham is the most important person. Everybody has to respect him, nobody can undermine him whereas now it’s so hard to be a manager.

“Players have too much power; I think the clubs may have had too much power in the old days but the balance has now completely gone which undermines managers. I would have loved to have managed when Graham managed because then the manager was given a chance, because he was the most important person whereas now it’s not that way.

“But it doesn’t matter if I like it or not. This is the way it is so we have to get on with it and we have to adapt. But if you’re asking me which I prefer, obviously I preferred it in the old days but that’s not to say football isn’t fantastic now because it is.”

Tales from the Vicarage Live was staged the day before the Hornets won 2-0 at Southampton to move up to fourth in the early-season Premier League standings.

Barnes reiterated his previously expressed view that Watford's approach flies in the face of what is usually needed to be successful, expanding on his reasoning for that opinion.

He said: “In the next four, five, six years we can see how sustainable it is. But what I did say was it has to come to a point where there has to be some stability.

"Once again people misinterpret what I am saying because I’m not being personal towards Watford, I’m talking generally. Now generally you need stability to be able to be successful.

"But what I’ve said about Watford is in the last four or five years they have become successful in a way that you’re not supposed to be successful. Instability, getting rid of managers, changing players every year, having players on loan, that’s not a recipe for success, but they have been successful. And everyone keeps forgetting that’s what I’ve been saying. They’ve been thinking that I’ve been saying it’s a recipe for disaster, they’re not a good club, they’re not successful.

"What I’m saying is that you wouldn’t advise anybody else, or any club to continue to do this and I wouldn’t advise Watford to continue to do this because you need some stability.

"If you get a manager, a good manager, stick with him, don’t change him. They have done and its worked but I don’t think you can continue to do this for the next 10 years if you want to be successful, whatever you consider success to be.

"From the fans’ perspective, Watford have been absolutely incredible in the last few years in terms of being comfortably safe come February and March. The end [of the seasons] hasn’t been great and therefore it’s been quite negative towards the end, but when you’re finishing 13th or wherever Watford are finishing you’d take that at the first game of the season so be very realistic in terms of what your expectations are. And once again Watford have started okay and I’m sure they’ll do okay this year."

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