John Barnes: I'd back Swansea City to reach Premier dream
YOU get the feeling these days that you could ask the man on the moon if he's seen Swansea City play and he'd respond with a grin.
Over the past few years Swansea City have received a few compliments for their performances.
But just now they seem to be getting dished out like confetti.
The way Swansea dismantled Leeds last weekend was a defining moment for all at the Liberty.
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It opened the eyes of other managers and pundits across the country.
It also heightened expectations outside of the city for Swansea to succeed where they failed last time.
Kevin Keegan and Wales boss Gary Speed were the latest to praise the 'Swanselona' style in the aftermath of the Leeds demolition.
Now John Barnes joins the list. An admirer of Swansea's approach, the former Liverpool and England winger played alongside some top players during his career for club and country.
And in an exclusive interview with the Evening Post, he reveals that he expects Swansea's style to fire them to the Premier League.
"Swansea are an excellent side to watch and they play some fantastic football," said Barnes.
"It's a very difficult league to get out of, but Swansea will have big aspirations of getting up.
"A lot of clubs in the Championship have ambitions of going up.
"But Blackpool got in the Premier League on a shoestring budget last year and look at how they have done.
"In my opinion, Swansea would do an even better job in the Premier League. They certainly have a better chance.
"I expect them to at least be in the play-offs, but it wouldn't be a surprise at all if they finished in the top two.
"If I had to put money on it, I'd back them to go up because of the form they are in."
Barnes wasn't stopping there in terms of praise.
The former Celtic and Tranmere boss also highlighted the form of Darren Pratley — a man he tried to call up for international duty while in charge of Jamaica — along with wingers Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer.
Barnes, now 47, believes Swansea — who head to Scunthorpe tomorrow — are reaping the rewards for their ambitious and adventurous approach under Brendan Rodgers.
"Having two wingers is very ambitious in modern football because the opposition flood the midfield and make it difficult," said Barnes.
"It shows that Swansea want to play in an attacking style. That has a lot to do with the fact they are involved in so many entertaining games.
"Sinclair and Dyer will hurt a lot of defences because they have superb pace and control. They know how to get in and behind full-backs.
"They did really well to get Sinclair there — it really shows the ambition of the club.
"A lot was thought of him when he was at Chelsea and he wasn't given too much of a chance during his loan spell at Wigan.
"But he could still be at a Premier League club, easily. He opted to drop down and it's paying off for him.
"It shows that sometimes a step back is a launchpad to success.
"Dyer, too, has been excellent. He is such a dangerous little player.
"Full-backs will look at them thinking 'how am I going to stop these guys?' There's not much of an answer to that.
"When you play the way Swansea do with two wingers you are always open to the counter.
"It will make it quite difficult for the central midfielders, but they cope very well.
"I think the whole squad understands the way the manager wants them to play, and that is priceless in today's game."
Pratley missed out on the chance to play for Barnes's Jamaica because of injury, and a cap never materialised after Roberto Martinez suggested the midfielder should wait to see if England called.
The 25-year-old, who qualifies for the Reggae Boyz through his grandparents, was called up by Barnes for a friendly against Nigeria in 2009, but the midfielder pulled out after injuring his shoulder while on Swansea duty.
And Barnes, who went undefeated in his 11 games in charge of Jamaica, hailed Pratley's "Premier League quality".
"Darren didn't make it early on (at Fulham) but he's always had the quality and the enthusiasm. You can see those qualities in the way he is during games," added Barnes.
"He can play in a number of roles in midfield — his energy levels mean he is everywhere around the pitch.
"I called him up for Jamaica and I was thinking of using him in front of the defence. He can certainly play there.
"I would have loved to have given him his international debut. Ever since I've seen him play I think he can do anything.
"He can attack, defend, hassle the opposition — he is an all-action player. He is not only a fan's player, he is a manager's player. He can fulfil many roles.
"Darren is a fantastic player and could easily play in the Premier League as he is Premier League quality. Hopefully he'll get there next season with Swansea, because they both deserve it."
So Barnes is a Swansea fan.
Judging by the reaction to Leeds, even the man on the moon will be rooting for Rodgers and Co as they reach for the stars this spring.