Geoff Barnett understudy to Bob Wilson

By Tony Attwood

Geoffrey Colin Barnett was born on 16 October 1946 in Northwich,Cheshire.

He is rather unusual as a footballer in history in that although he played in a relatively recent era no one seems to know what he did in later life.

What we do know is that Geoff Barnett started out with Everton in 1962 and gained school boy and under 21 caps with England at that time.

However as is commonplace with keepers he found two players in form ahead of hims – one in particular Gordon West having international stature.  And so in seven years he made only 10 league appearances as he suffered the curse of the understudy.   But in 1965 he won the FA Youth Cup with Everton.

Then in October 1969 Bob Wilson sustained a broken arm and Barnett was signed  for £35,000 by Arsenal.   He made his Arsenal debut against against Coventry City on 4 October 1969.

During that spell he played 11 times in the league for Arsenal and also played in both legs of the second round match of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, keeping  and successfully keeping clean sheets in both legs against Sporting CP – as well as saving a penalty in the first leg.

He then returned to the reserves but then a second injury to Bob Wilson meant that Geoff Barnett played in the Cup final against Leeds in 1972.

Bob Wilson had problems with his recovery the following season and Geoff Barnet played more regularly.  The era was recognised in the Arsenal History Society quiz a couple of years back when we said…

Bob Wilson was injured near the end of the 1971/2 season, meaning that our deputy keeper played in the Cup Final of 1972, and through the first third of the next season.  Who was it?

Everyone who entered the competition got it right.

In 1974 Bob Wilson talked to the club about wanting to retire that summer and so in February of that year Jimmy Rimmer was signed.  Geoff Barnett stayed l with Arsenal however and his last match was against Stoke on 13 December 1975.

In January 1976 he moved on to Minnesota Kicks in the USA having played 49 times for Arsenal.  He stayed with the club for a number of years and was manager of the club on 14 May 1981.   However at the end of that season the Kicks ceased to exist.

After that we have two quite separate tales of Geoff – and indeed both might be true at different times.

One is that after the folding of the Kicks he returned to England and ran or runs a pub in Cheshire.  The other is that he lives in Minnesota working for the Pines Golf Course at Grand View Lodge, Nisswa.  If I had to guess from what I have read I would say that he did both – first in the pub, second in the golf club.

If you know for sure, or have any evidence it would be great to know. 

Season  Games
1969/70 11
1970/1 0
1971/2 5
1972/3 20
1973/4 0
1974/5 2
1975/6 1
Total Games 39

Football career

Years Team League Games
1962-1969 Everton 10
1969-1976 Arsenal 49
1976-1980 Minnesota Kicks 67

There is an index to our Anniversary Files on the home page

3 Replies to “Geoff Barnett understudy to Bob Wilson”

  1. I will never forget Geoff Barnett. As a young lad I was moved to Norwich in late 1975. I will always remember one winters Saturday going alone to watch my beloved Arsenal play at Carrow Rd in the football combination, as it was of the time. After the game as young boys of the day did, I waited outside to get a few autographs of some of players, as they made their way to the team coach. For anyone who knows Carrow road it is about ¾ of a mile from the train station, which I knew was where the coach was headed, as in those days the train was the preferred way back to London.
    So as the last player boarded the bus I legged it along the river side road round to the Train station making it about the same time that the players were making their way up the platform. What happened next I will never forget and will forever be indebted.
    In the seventies silk scarves (well imitation silk) were the thing to have. I happened to have just bought a new one, so with my young cheek I ran up to Geoff (panting and wheezing) and asked him if he would take it back to Highbury and get all the first team to sign it, to which he was only too pleased and asked for my name and address. To my great surprise about a week later a package arrived true to his word with all the first team signatures on my scarf with a lovely letter……bloody hell what a guy, it still touches me to this day.
    It’s funny to read the post, as all my life I have wondered what happened to Geoff after football. I have always said if I won the lottery, I would find out and repay Geoff in an immense way for such an act of sheer kindness!!!

  2. I remember Geoff from Weaverham Forest St primary school where we had good run in 1957 and played two finals , one at Witton Albion’s ground the other at Northwich Vics ground ,we lost both finals,not sure if Geoff was playing centre forward then?.If I remember correctly he was an Newcastle fan or maybe West Brom?. We would play on ground opposite what became the Salter Inn. I remember his mum was head cook at school ,we would collect dishes and then sit down too enormous helpings ourselves. Happy Days

  3. Very sad news when I downloaded the Arsenal programme today to see that Geoff Barnett has died of Covid aged 74 in the United States.
    A very capable deputy to Bob Wilson and from what I read on here, a top person.


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