Young Barnett, one of the best
Tony Becca, Contributor
A little bird whispered in my ear recently that St George's College will be honouring four of its old boys for outstanding service to the school sometime next month, and that one of those to be so elevated was Dennis Barnett, the football star of 55 years ago.
Suddenly, my eyes lit up. Dennis, or 'DB' as his friends used to call him, as I used to refer to him, was St George's College, he was 'STGC', and he was the symbol of the 'Light Blues' in those days, far away and long ago.
Dennis was more than a footballer. He was a cricketer, a tennis player and a table tennis player, but it was as a footballer that he made the greatest impression.
He was a master dribbler, he dazzled the fans and the opposition with deft footwork, and his shots were not of the thunderbolt variety, but were sweetly and accurately hit as they flashed, not so much to the 'pigeon hole', but on the 'rat hole', as goalkeepers dived desperately and most times in vain.
Dennis was a schoolboy wonder, playing Manning Cup football in 1958 at the age of 14 in company with players such as Walter 'Blubba' Campbell and Bobby Marsh, and going through until 1962.
In those five years, he played with some of St George's best.
In 1958, he played with Michael King, one of the very best schoolboy goalkeepers ever; 'Dynamite' Lyn, a small, swift centre-forward; Trevor Appleton; and Peter Chevannes. And in 1960-61, his teammates included Dennis Chung, Dennis Charley, Dennis Zaidie, Warwick Lyn, Richard Domville, Michael Charley, and Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham.
Along with Marsden Chen, Anthony Hill and Denzil Lue of St George's College, Alva Anderson of Jamaica College, Granville Dowie and Neville Oxford of Kingston College, Mickey West of Wolmer's, Billy Griffith and George Davidson of Cornwall College, Alan 'Skill' Cole of Vere Technical, and Lennie 'Teacher' Hyde of Clarendon College, I rate Barnett among the best schoolboy footballers that I have seen.
Dennis Barnett is listed among the best, mainly because of his performance in 1959 in the company of King, Lyn, Appleton, Freddie Campbell, Douglas Hill, Trevor Summers, Donald Barnett, Chevannes, Delroy Lopez, and Jackie Bell.
In 1959, Dennis Barnett, playing at inside-left, led St George's College to the Manning Cup title with a memorable first-minute goal and unforgettable performance in a thrilling victory over Kingston College. He also led them to a share of the Olivier Shield when he netted twice when the two-way play-off ended in a tie, he went on tour to Haiti with the All Schools team, and he was invited to the national trials in a year of outstanding performances.
In 1960, the football season was abandoned, with St George's College on the verge of winning the title; and in 1961, St George's College won the Walker Cup.
As a Wolmer's old boy, I love my school, and I admire everybody who ever represented my school in sports like football, cricket, track and field, hockey, tennis, and table tennis.
Between 1958 and 1962, just before and just after leaving school, however, Dennis Barnett was not only the pride and joy of St George's College, he was, certainly to me, a Wolmer's boy, one of Jamaica's best.
He was definitely one of the best schoolboy footballers of my time, in fact, of any time.
In those days, however, and as it in these days, schoolboys were limited to Manning Cup, daCosta Cup, and Olivier Shield football. Only on a few occasions, and only the special few got opportunities to move on.
It is because of that blinkered thinking that, every time I think, not so much of Oxford, Hyde, and company, who enjoyed a little national recognition at that age, but of Barnett, West and a few others who did not, the more I believe it was a pity.