When Giles Barnes signed a new contract with the Houston Dynamo in December and was subsequently named club captain for this season, it seemed that the English-born Jamaican international’s future lay firmly in Texas.
But soccer is a fast-moving sport, and eight months later Barnes finds himself with a new team, in a new country, after the Vancouver Whitecaps swooped in to land the experienced forward this past weekend.
For Barnes it came a little out of the blue, though he’d heard “whispers.” Now that it’s a done deal, he’s delighted to join up with his new teammates, as the Whitecaps look to make a consolidated push towards the postseason.
"I try not to have anything surprise me in football," Barnes, 27, told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. "I've been a professional since 2005, so I've had a long time in the game. You just have to get on with it.
"Football's a funny game. It's a lot of ups and a lot of downs. You've just got to ride with it and that's what I'm doing. I'm very excited and very grateful for the new chapter ahead of me, though."
Barnes was already sensing that his time in Houston was coming to an end amid reports linking him with a return to England to be reunited with former Dynamo boss Owen Coyle at Championship side Blackburn Rovers. The Vancouver deal was announced late on Saturday evening and Barnes admitted that he himself only found out about the deal late on.
"I'd obviously heard whispers about me going over to Blackburn, so I kind of knew that I was on the way out either way,” said Barnes. "There was interest in Blackburn. As far as I know the deal was really close to getting done and for some reason it didn't happen.
"But I'm very, very happy and very excited to be able to work with a manager like [Carl Robinson] and come to a great team like the Whitecaps. My first thing is to get us firmly and safely into the playoffs and then lift a trophy with the Whitecaps."
Robinson has been a longtime admirer of Barnes, saying that it proved to be a case of third time’s the charm after two previous failed attempts to sign the versatile forward.
Barnes is now in his fifth season in MLS, and he brings to Vancouver something the Whitecaps have been sorely missing these past few seasons: a proven scoring record in the league.
"Hopefully [I’ll bring] a lot of goals," Barnes said. "I wear my heart on my sleeve when I play, so hopefully I'm going to bring some excitement to the fans, something for everyone to look to when the games are a little bit tough.
"We've got a lot of great players. We've got a lot of players that are good with the ball, a lot of young players with a lot of energy, and hopefully I’ll be able to provide that finishing touch and those extra goals that need to be done, and to try and be a match winner as well as a great teammate."
With 31 goals from his 121 overall MLS appearances and a wealth of previous experience over in England, Barnes, on paper, has what it takes to make the Whitecaps stronger. He is confident, too, that he can bring the Whitecaps just what they are looking for, and we’ll get a better idea of just where he will fit into Vancouver’s lineup this Saturday in their game in Colorado (9 pm ET, TSN in Canada and MLS LIVE in US).
"My preferred position is to be central, whether as a [No.] 9 or as a 10," Barnes said. "Recently, over the last year, I've played wide in a kind of 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1, whatever way you want to call it. Me and Carl have spoken about certain things and what he expects of me, and I'm sure you'll find out in the next few weeks what position I fit into with the team."
Whether Barnes is a short-term fix for Vancouver or a long-term addition also remains to be seen. If it’s up to him, he’s not going to be going anywhere else any time soon. He says he’s delighted to be joining playoff contenders after being on a struggling team.
"I'm here for as long as Vancouver want me," Barnes stated. "For me, it's just such excitement. I've come from a team that was at the bottom. As a competitor, and an athlete, I want to be competing for things and that's exactly what I've come to in Vancouver.
"It's a young side, with a great manager and great fanbase. I'm really excited to be here. At the end of the year, I want to be lifting a trophy."