If you recall the 18-year-old Giles Barnes who lit up the Championship with Derby County you could be forgiven for thinking he was older than 24, and as the Houston Dynamo attacker enjoys a new lease of life in the MLS he takes the time to thank his former Rams role models for their lasting influence.
The former West Bromwich Albion player left Doncaster Rovers last May and in August he made a move to the US that for European players has traditionally been typically associated with winding a career down. Since his debut season in 2005/06 under Phil Brown and latterly caretaker manager Terry Westley, the Londoner has been through the archetypal high points and more testing moments.
The elation of promotion to the Premier League with Derby in 2007 and all the excitement that surrounded his ability as a teenager has been tempered by injuries and other roadblocks but at 24 there is the feeling that there is still something more to come. He gives his view on how his move to Houston Dynamo may have been seen by English football fans and observers, as well as why the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup winners were an alluring proposition for him.
“I was young to come over here but I’d done eight years already as a professional so when you look at it like that it’s not like it’s such a ‘soon’ move. I came over here because it was a good league and I’ve heard a lot about it.
“I’ve been interested in coming over here for a few years so it was the right time for me to come over. When I sat and met with (Dynamo head coach) Dom (Kinnear) and (club president) Chris Canetti and bedded in with a few of the lads I knew it was the right thing for me to do.
“It was a no-brainer for me to come here and things are going well for me at the moment. They’re going well for the team as well and we started off the best in franchise history this year so it’s all good.’’
The 2007 Young Player of the Year for Derby, Giles scored eight times in 2006/07 en route to promotion to the top flight via the play-offs under Billy Davies. Despite the natural rough edges to his game as a teenager there was exuberance that proved invaluable for the Rams and he scored some pivotal goals in the season. There was a 92nd-minute equaliser at Cardiff City, a match-winning brace at home to Barnsley, a header at Pride Park to beat West Brom, and another with his head, this time the only goal of the game to defeat Leeds United at Elland Road.
Out of the squad that won promotion that year, five players have featured on here with their own music/football interviews – defenders Michael Johnson and Dean Leacock, goalkeeper Lee Grant, midfielder Matt Oakley and now Giles. Ex-Jamaica international Michael Johnson was a vital influence wherever he went in his career and certainly while at Pride Park. In his interview on here he described some of the music tastes in the team during his time with the club and former midfielder Seth Johnson, who famously went to Leeds United for £7million in 2001, got a dishonourable mention! Giles agreed with the sentiment but also has a word or two of his own for the sound choices of Michael Johnson and another experienced defender in that team, Darren Moore.
“I could put Michael Johnson in there, he needed help from me! He’d come into my car and steal my CDs, him and Darren Moore would just beat me up, grab my CDs and leave!
“I think they’re the ones who needed help but yeah Seth was a funny one as well so I’ll give Jonski that one, yeah Seth’s up there for sure.’’
In the 2007/08 season, Giles got his first and only Premier League goal to date when he buried an early effort past Newcastle United’s Shay Given at St. James’ Park. The game ended 2-2 after the home side’s Mark Viduka rescued a point at the end but Giles’ Jay-Z-style ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ celebration stuck in my mind!
“The ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ one, I can’t even remember why I did it, just a rush of blood!’’
Giles’ professional debut arrived in August 2005 as Derby were beaten at home by Grimsby Town in the Carling Cup first round. It was a forgettable night for the Rams as they were eliminated by League Two opposition as a Championship side, but a 17-year-old Giles got his first taste of first-team football as a substitute for the crafty and vastly experienced Canadian goalgetter Paul Peschisolido. Giles recalls the guidance the ex-Sheffield United man gave him, as well as that offered by the two aforementioned English-born Jamaican international defenders Michael Johnson and Darren Moore.
“I was lucky at Derby, I got on with each and every one of the lads. Me and Dean Leacock were really good friends, David Jones when he was there, Arturo Lupoli, we still speak now.
“I’m still in contact with quite a few of the boys from there but I was lucky to have two, I call them father figures in my life there as well, with Darren Moore and Michael Johnson. They took me under their wing very early and I’ve got a lot to thank them for.
“Mooro was brilliant for me and Johnno was brilliant for me as well, and also Paul Peschisolido. He may have gone about it the wrong way sometimes by shouting at me but I knew he always wanted me to succeed so I had some good people around me for the whole time.’’
Despite a goal also in the FA Cup third round in the comeback from 2-0 down to draw with Sheffield Wednesday at home, the 2007/08 season had not gone as planned for Giles or for Derby. Rams supporters certainly don’t need reminding but a Premier League record-low points tally of 11 was accrued and Giles found the rest of his time at the club beset by injury. He did score a free-kick and a penalty at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg in 2009 as European champions Manchester United edged Derby, by then back in the Championship, out 4-2 on aggregate.
Giles’ last game for Derby came in the 1-1 draw with rivals Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup fourth round tie at Pride Park on Friday January 23rd 2009 in front of 32,035. The former England Under-19 star joined Roy Hodgson’s Fulham on loan, although a permanent move did not materialise. Paul Jewell and latterly Nigel Clough had been in charge at Derby towards the end of Giles’ stay but the man who took them up to the Premier League in his first season in charge, Billy Davies, is still someone he is thankful for.
“I’m very, very fond of that club. It’s a great club, the supporters when I was there were fantastic to me.
“Billy (Davies) was incredible for me, not just for me as a person but for the whole club and the city, what he brought is something that people will never forget. Things ended in a bit of an off way with the new manager when he took over.
“We both had differences of things and that’s what happens in football. I never really wanted to move on, I wanted to stay but for financial reasons he decided it was best for me to leave.
“But obviously it’s a special place to me and always will be.’’
In March 2010, Giles went to West Bromwich Albion and featured in their promotion back to the Premier League under Roberto Di Matteo, as well as 14 times the following year in the top flight. In 2011/12 he spent a season with Doncaster Rovers in their unsuccessful battle against Championship relegation, scoring once against Peterborough in February 2012. After departing South Yorkshire last year it was a move to the MLS and Houston Dynamo that felt right.
He was involved in the Dynamo’s run to the MLS Cup decider against LA Galaxy in December 2012, coming on as a sub as they lost out 3-1. The 2013 season has been extremely bright for Giles so far though and he has scored four and set up two in his 13 games, helping the team to 4th in the Eastern Conference. Much has changed for him since his Derby days but one thing is fairly similar. Just as he thought Rams teammate Michael Johnson could have done with some musical guidance from him, he feels the Dynamo’s keeper and a recent part of the US squad needs to freshen up his selection a touch!
“Tally Hall, if I hear that playlist that he’s got one more time before the games! The music’s good, he’s got a lot of hip-hop, he does it for the general (taste), everyone’s got different preferences but I’m sure he can skip the first 20 tracks at least!
“He’s got some music that dates back to I don’t even know when. It’s not so bad but I think we should change it up now.’’
Giles has won praise with the Dynamo for the way he links up with the likes of striker Will Bruin, and the terrific Brad Davis and Andrew Driver attacking from deeper, as well as for how he helps out defensively. His chemistry with the team has been clear and as he showed with his view on Tally Hall’s playlist he can offer an opinion on the pre-game music. Therefore, it is only fair to hear about his own personal favourites!
“I’m into 90s r&b, old school, UK garage that a lot of people over here don’t know about but I’m trying to play it a little bit more in the changing room and the lads are starting to like it. I like a bit of rap, a bit of hip-hop, but mostly old school r&b, it reminds me of good times travelling with my mum and my dad in the car.
“I also like reggae as well, obviously that’s my roots, in Jamaica, so that’s the kind of music I’m into. Pre-match, I usually listen to slow music, I like to be calm before I go into games, which is opposite to most people, but I’m a chilled kind of person so that’s what I like to be.’’
The musical foundations provided to him by his parents were highly influential but when he discussed the first album he ever bought he also recalled how he got his hands on his father’s collection. Perhaps Darren Moore and Michael Johnson stealing his CDs was karma after all!
“I didn’t really need to buy them, I used to steal them from my dad’s car! I think the first one I actually bought might have been The Fugees’ album ‘The Score’, but the rest I just used to steal them from my dad’s car and he’d come and find them in my room.’’
Giles has scored against Vancouver Whitecaps, San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids and D.C. United this season and his strike into the top corner from the edge of the box against Colorado would not have been out of place in the Premier League. His last taste of English football’s top table was with West Brom and when discussing the widely popular singing initiation procedure for new signings at clubs it was memories from the Baggies that sprang to mind mostly.
“I joined West Bromwich Albion and I sang Usher, it went pretty well. Usher ‘Nice and Slow’, it went well, got a little round of applause, I won’t be doing it again though.
“Peter Odemwingie, he sang a Nigerian song that nobody understood! It was good though, I’ve got to give it him, but we didn’t really understand any of the words.
“Steven Reid sang a good one, he sang a Queen song I think it was and he had all the Albion boys jumping up and down and causing chaos in the restaurant, so they’re two good ones. Also, on England duty a guy called Ishmel Demontagnac, he rapped to Lethal B’s (with Platinum 45 as part of More Fire Crew) ‘Oi’, which was quite good as well.’’
The home support for Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium is definitely something to spur on those in orange and Giles got his first MLS goal in front of them when he headed home Ricardo Clark’s cross against Vancouver in March. Dominic Kinnear’s side stretched their unbeaten home record to 36 in all competitions earlier in the campaign and they set a new MLS regular season record of 30 after drawing at home to Colorado on April 28th.
The run ended with defeat to Sporting Kansas City on May 12th but after a welcome break since June 1st the Dynamo have been able to get some injured players back towards fitness. This includes Giles, who returned to training this week after an ankle knock in the game against Columbus Crew that was initially more worrying. Aside from reigniting his on-pitch form in Texas, Giles has taken to life in the area with the support system every person needs helping him massively. He also describes what he misses the most from back home, although the switch in dialect has been a seamless transition for him.
“I quite like the American accent so it’s good, it’s refreshing for me to hear. The biggest adaptation for me was leaving my family.
“I love my family to death, that’s why I moved us all close together, so that’s the hardest thing, missing my brother (Marcus) growing up, but apart from that they come out quite regularly so I get to see them quite often. I’m really enjoying it over here which was a big thing for me because obviously when you miss home you’ve got to have other distractions and with everyone here it’s like having a big family so it’s brilliant.’’
It just leaves the regular site question to end the interview and in this I get the player to select four of their best career teammates to play alongside them in a fantasy 5-a-side line-up. It can definitely be said that the choice of a defender gave Giles a headache but after much deliberation he came through in the end! A 5-a-side team bustling with international and top-level experience.
“Mark Schwarzer in goal – incredible keeper, incredible man as well, a lot of time for him. Midfielder would probably be Olivier Dacourt at Fulham, even though he didn’t play much, in training he was incredible, you could tell why he’d been at the top for so long.
“A striker…you’re killing me here! Peter Odemwingie – on his day, I’ve not played with anyone like him, go left, go right, quick as hell, strong, can score from anywhere.
“Just need a defender, I’ve played with a lot of good defenders, I’m thinking for 5-a-side who’d be good in a one-v-one. I’ll give you Dean Leacock from Derby – there you go.
“Deano, when he’s fit, incredible one-v-one defender.’’