IT would be reasonable to suppose that the Glasgow experience of John Barnes would have been enough to make the former Liverpool player shrink at a Scottish accent and positively bridle at the mere mention of the game north of the border.
However, Barnes speaks of his brief tenure as Celtic manager with some insight and maintains a strong connection to the Scottish game through his role as a media pundit and his friendship with Dave King, the Scottish businessman and former Rangers director based in South Africa, who has been vocal in the unfolding turmoil at the Ibrox club.
Barnes travels the world in his role as a football analyst and met King in South Africa, where the former England internationalist comments on both Barclays Premier League and Champions League matches. He believes strongly that King has a role to play as the power struggle continues at Rangers. The businessman lost £20m when the club was owned by Sir David Murray and has warned they could be in administration by Christmas.
Barnes believes he was a victim of that high-spending Rangers, too, with his coaching career bludgeoned by the reality that he was facing greater resources at Ibrox. He also insists King could be the leader who rescues Rangers from in-fighting and brings the club back to the top league and to financial stability.
Barnes lasted from June 1999 to February 2000 as Celtic manager, with a Scottish Cup defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle precipitating his demise. "I was not there long enough to learn a lot," he says, his sunny demeanour failing to disguise the disappointment of a opportunity that proved short-lived.
Barnes was part of a "dream ticket", coming to Celtic Park in tandem with Kenny Dalglish, his one-time manager at Liverpool. He dismisses any notions he was an innocent thrown into the jungle of Scottish football. "Nothing happened there that I did not expect. I knew the expectations were high. I knew we were second to Rangers and if that continued it would mean that it would not work out."
Standing in the BT studios in London where he is about to give his opinions on the English game, he pauses to reflect on the state of Scottish football then and now. "I think a lot of people are now looking at the dynamics of the game north of the border and saying it is not as easy at it seems. In those days it was very different. In those days David Murray was spending a lot of money. Rangers had better players and much more money than Celtic. They were signing such as Joerg Albertz and Michael Mols to join the good players they already had."
Barnes was consumed by the imperative to defeat Rangers but with lesser resources. "It is strange to see how it has gone with Celtic and Rangers," he says. "The dynamic is different and it shows the way Celtic were doing things from a financial point of view was the right way and the necessary way to do it."
He states bluntly: "Rangers are paying the price for that period."
His friendship with King has given him the inside story on his rivals when he was manager of Celtic. King, who took up his role as a non-executive director in March 2000, began his formal association with Rangers as Barnes was ending his with Celtic but King and he have become close after regular trips to South Africa. "He tells me stories of what it was like back then," says Barnes, now 49 and travelling to the Middle East and elsewhere to talk football. "He tells me of the money Rangers were spending and that has impacted on where they are now. It is shame because they're a huge club."
In March, King announced his intention to sue Murray, stating: "I seem to be one of the few people who actually invested cash into the club. I have made a claim of £20m the basis of non-disclosure by the then chairman, David Murray, of Rangers' true financial position as far back as 2000." Murray said he would vigorously contend any such claim if and when it was lodged.
The past at Rangers is thus clouded with much animosity for King, but Barnes is optimistic on the club's future if his friend becomes involved. "He would be good for Rangers because he is a fan. He wants what is right for Rangers. It is a huge brand that can be hugely successful and it will be successful once again. It may take a few years but the more they can have people like him involved from a footballing perspective the better. If you are a football supporter, you want people like him to involved in football."
Barnes, too, would like to become more closely involved in football. He managed the Jamaican national team for a season, taking them to first place in the 2008 Caribbean Championships, and then joined Tranmere Rovers in June 2009, lasting just five months before being sacked. "I would love to get back into management but it is hard. There are a lot of ex-managers who want to get back in. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to do TV work but if something came up I would definitely look at it again."
And what of a return to Scotland? Has his experience at Celtic soured him? "It was fantastic up there," he says. "Obviously, the politics were not great but the football was good. I loved it, " he says.