From Dave Gardner
March 25, 2016
As head analyst for Fox Sports, Warren Barton is among the most recognizable faces of soccer in the United States.
His career as one of the sport’s quintessential footballing full backs spanned 18 years and included playing for England and starring in a glamorous Newcastle team that was at the height of its considerable powers in the EPL and challenging for the game’s biggest honors.
Yet Warren was told at the age of 15 that he was too small to ever realize his dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
His stylish defending, together with a penchant for getting forward that pioneered the modern wing back and an abiding passion for the game that shines every much as brightly today, quickly proved the doubters wrong.
Now it is not only America’s TV soccer fans who are getting the benefit of Warren’s experience; he is also Technical Director of the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks and coaches three of the club’s teams, U-18, U-16 and U-12.
With Director of Operations and World Cup winner Shannon MacMillan, Warren has helped make the Sharks a force to be reckoned with in the soccer hotbed of Southern California.
After moving to the North County in 2008 with wife Candy and sons Milo, 17, Kane, 15 and Tye, 11, he started coaching his children’s teams and still gets a big kick out of passing on his expertise and love of the game, having himself learned under some of soccer’s pre-eminent European coaches.
Warren began his league career in England with Maidstone United at 18 and joined the “Crazy Gang” at Wimbledon, then a top level club, in 1990. Five years later, he became the most expensive defender in English football when he joined Newcastle for a then record (pounds) 4 million.
Around this time he was also picked as England’s first choice right back.
During Warren’s nearly eight years at St. James Park, Newcastle reached two FA Cup finals and were just squeezed out into second place in the league by Manchester United. He also captained the side before moving on to Derby County in 2002.
After subsequent spells with Queens Park Rangers, Wimbledon and Dagenham and Redbridge, Warren hung up his boots for a new career in the media, eventually trading rainy London for the California sunshine and a pundit’s job with Fox.
Here, Warren speaks to Football.com:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy in one sentence?
WARREN: You must enjoy the game and be passionate; play the right way and don’t be afraid to express yourself.
2. You played at the very highest level, representing your country and playing for many years in the EPL with the likes of Newcastle and Wimbledon. What are your favorite memories from your playing days?
WARREN: Playing with my four-year-old brother when we were kids in Islington, North London. We’d play one against one all the time; we just loved playing football. Of course I also have some great memories from later on – beating Barcelona 3-2 with Newcastle at St. James Park in the Champions League was an amazing experience, as was playing for England against Brazil.
3. Were there any coaches that particularly influenced your development in the game?
WARREN: Ray Harford, who later went on to success at Blackburn Rovers where he was assistant to Kenny Dalglish when they won the EPL, was a great technical coach when I was a young boy at Wimbledon. That was in the early 90s when that was unusual. Then there was working under Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle. He was a great role model in how to conduct yourself and he had such a passion for the game.
4. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
WARREN: Can you control the ball? Do you understand the game? It’s about control, passion and enjoying what you do.
5. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
WARREN: I grew up in London supporting Arsenal and they have always been my team but I spent nearly eight years with Newcastle so they are special to me, as well. Mind you, the way Barcelona are playing now is incredible to watch. My favorite player growing up was Liam Brady of Arsenal.
6. Tell us a little about your involvement with the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks.
WARREN: I got my coaching licenses when I was still playing. I started with Stuart Pearce (former England player and U-21 manager) and got my ‘B’ and my ‘A’ licenses and then right at the end of my playing days I got my Pro License. But I really got involved in coaching because of my sons; I started to coach them after we came to America eight years ago and I really enjoy it. I coach the U-18, U-16 and U-12 teams. My oldest is 17 and he’s going to play for UC Santa Barbara and the other two boys are 15 and 11. One reason I became involved with the Sharks was because of Shannon MacMillan, the Director of club Operations. It wasn’t just her record as a player but because she cares about the program and about helping to develop the kids. The program is community-based and there’s a good feeling around the club. We have a huge rec. program which is a great feeder and the kids live in the community. There are a lot of clubs in the area but the Sharks have a World Cup winner and someone who’s played at the highest level internationally and in the EPL. That can’t be bad.
7. How do you think the youth soccer system in the U.S. could be improved?
WARREN: It’s really well structured and Cal South and their Director of Coaching Steve Hoffman do a great job. The thing that does need some improvement is the coaches and their education. Parents pay a phenomenal amount of money to have their kids coached so they need to have properly qualified coaches. It’s like if you’re paid as a plumber, you’d better know how to do the job. It’s not enough to have an accent or to have played yourself.
8. What do you enjoy about coaching?
WARREN: Passing on my enthusiasm and my knowledge about the game. You are trying to pass on 30+ years of experience without dictating to the kids – and when you see it click in a young player and they understand what you’re telling them there’s just nothing like it.
9. Do you see a future in coaching?
WARREN: I love the media side of it so I don’t have any plans at the moment. I got into coaching because of my kids and that’s the extent of it for now. I love my job with FOX and living here – 75 degrees, what’s not to like?
10. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
WARREN: Always try to get better and enjoy playing. The more you give to the game, the more you’re going to get out of it.