The family resemblance extends far beyond their looks. While Dynamo forward Giles Barnes is midway through the tenth year of his professional career, his brother, Marcus, is just getting started.
Marcus signed his first professional contract with English Premier League club Southampton last December, a couple of days after his 17th birthday. Like his big brother, he is a tall, talented attacker with an eye for goal. And he is spending most of June in Houston, visiting Giles, exploring the area and working on his fitness under the merciless Texas summer sun.
HoustonDynamo.com spoke to the Barnes brothers after training last week. Giles won the Dynamo’s Golden Boot last year with nine regular-season goals and has started all 16 of the team’s MLS games so far this year. Marcus was formerly with English second-tier side Wolverhampton Wanderers, joined Southampton last summer and made a rapid impression at the club’s academy.
He was rewarded with a professional deal and is aiming to plot a path to the first team and follow in the boot-steps of the many talented youngsters who have come through the ranks at Southampton and become stars, including England internationals Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw.
“It was a great moment, a moment that you can’t have again, your first professional contract,” said Marcus. “It’s a club that’s made for development, they want to bring youth players through and they’ll give you the time when you’re ready and when you’re good enough. It’s probably one of the best clubs in the Premier League to actually get a first team chance, when you’re a youth player.”
The team from England’s south coast, 80 miles from London, had an outstanding 2013-2014 campaign, finishing eighth in the Premier League, one place below Manchester United. “It’s a great club, they bought him, the second time he’s been bought, so he’s obviously doing something right. He’s just got to keep on developing,” said Giles.
“Part of him coming out here was for him to grow as a man as well. He’s got on a plane by himself for the first time, he’s just started lifting weights, his body’s ready, he’s 6 foot, 6-foot-1. He’s got to develop into a man now to kick on with that side of the game. He’s been training with their first team a few times, he’s played for their under-21s, so the next step for him is hopefully to progress and stay in and around the first team.”
It’s hard to imagine a better mentor for Marcus than his brother. A teenage prodigy in the mid-2000s, Giles also signed professional terms aged 17—with English club Derby County—and made his first-team debut with them at the same age.
“I’m 25, he’s 17. I just try and help him with more the mental side of it, it’s not always going to be easy; physically I can help him with the running but technically he’s good, he’s sound technically and he knows what he’s good at. Sometimes he doesn’t like to hear what he’s not good at! But being his brother I maybe get to say a little bit more than other people would. I try and help him as much as I can and he’s a good kid and he takes all the information on properly,” he said.
“I speak to Giles pretty much every day. I try to [watch] his games when I can but obviously with the time difference, when I have training in the morning it’s not very helpful,” said Marcus. “I’ve always loved football and obviously, having a brother that plays football gives you that bit more motivation to do it.”
Their shared love of the sport often led to some impromptu training sessions in the family’s backyard. “We’ve got pictures of this [guy] following me around the garden!” said Giles. “We used to go and play five-a-side. You get five best friends and go and play in tournaments, and he’d come along. We were always just kicking the ball around in the garden, in the offseason we’d train with each other. It’s always good to have someone to run next to.”
Despite the age difference, and the fact that they now live far apart, the deep bond between the siblings is obvious. “He’s my best friend,” said Giles. “There’s a lot of years between us but there’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t think about him, and I’m just glad he was able to come out here.“
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.