Leon Peter Barnett (born 30 November 1985) was an English professional footballer who last played as a defender for League One club Northampton Town. Barnett retired from playing on 26 November 2018, as a result of a heart condition.
In Barnett's first season, at the age of 13, he played as a pacey right sided midfielder for local team Bushmead Wanderers. This position he retained over the next couple of seasons and was a prolific goalscorer having scored over 40 goals using his incredible pace.
Barnett started his football career at Luton Town and progressed through their youth system. During the 2002–03 season, he made his first-team debut for the club, coming on as a 86th-minute substitute for Marvin Johnson in a 2–0 away win over Woking in the Football League Trophy on 22 October 2002, but failed to feature again during the season. Barnett featured twice in the Football League Trophy and once in the FA Cup during the 2003–04 season, but was still yet to make a league appearance for the club. He signed a professional contract on 27 September 2004, one day before making a starting appearance in a 2–0 away defeat to Swansea City in the Football League Trophy, during which he was shown a red card after only 12 minutes.
On 18 November 2004, Barnett joined Southern League Premier Division club Aylesbury United on a one-month loan. He made his Aylesbury debut in a 3–1 home defeat to Histon two days later. Barnett's final appearance was in a 2–0 away defeat to Merthyr Tydfil on 18 December 2004. He made a total of six appearances for the club.
After the expiration of his loan at Aylesbury, Barnett returned to Luton, but failed to make any further appearances during the season. He was however named in the matchday squad for the 2–1 away win over Wrexham on 23 April 2005, which was enough to guarantee Luton the League One title.
Barnett began the 2005–06 season by making his Football League debut as a 90th-minute substitute for Russell Perrett in a 1–0 away win over Hull City on 17 September 2005. Three days later, he made a starting appearance in a 1–0 away defeat to Reading in the League Cup second round, but was substituted in the 55th minute and replaced by Keith Keane. Barnett was not included in Luton's matchday squads following the match until 29 October 2005, when he came on as a 62nd-minute substitute for Chris Coyne in a 1–0 away defeat to Coventry City. He made starting appearances in a 4–0 away defeat to Championship leaders Sheffield United on 1 November 2005, followed by a 3–2 home defeat to Burnley on 5 November 2005 to make three consecutive appearances for the club, all of which resulted in defeats. Barnett remained an unused substitute in a 2–0 away defeat to Norwich City two weeks later, but returned to the starting lineup three days later in a 4–1 home win over Crewe Alexandra, ending a run of four straight league defeats. He featured as a substitute in his next two matches, a 3–0 away defeat to Championship leaders Reading on 3 December 2005, prior to a 1–0 away defeat to Ipswich Town four weeks later. Barnett was restored to the starting lineup two days later in a 2–1 home defeat to arch-rivals Watford. He featured as a 74th-minute substitute for Markus Heikkinen as Luton were defeated 5–3 at home to Premier League club Liverpool in the FA Cup third round, a match they led 3–1. Barnett continued to feature on the substitutes bench throughout the month of January, making two substitute appearances for Enoch Showunmi in 2–0 wins over Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday. This initially continued into the month of February, as he remained an unused substitute in a 3–2 home defeat to Hull City, before coming on as a 41st-minute substitute for Chris Coyne in a 5–1 defeat to Preston North End. For the remainder of February, Barnett was a regular first-team player, making starting appearances in a 3–3 draw with Cardiff City, a 3–2 home win over Championship leaders Reading, their first defeat since the opening day of the season, prior to a 2–1 away defeat to Leeds United. However, Barnett soon returned to the substitutes bench during March, mostly an unused substitute, but made one starting appearance in a 2–1 home defeat to Leicester City on 11 March 2006. During the month of April, Barnett featured in the final five matches, to finish the season with a total of 22 appearances in all competitions, with Luton finishing in 10th-place in the 2005–06 Championship table.
Barnett made a bright start to the 2006–07 season, scoring his first professional goal in a 2–0 home win over Leicester City on the opening day. Two weeks later, he scored a header, his second professional goal in a 2–2 draw with Stoke City on 19 August 2006. Later in the season, he scored another header in a 3–2 home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers on 3 March 2007. Barnett featured in all but seven league matches, making 43 appearances in all competitions and scoring three times, but could not prevent Luton from being relegated to League One after a 1–0 away defeat to Derby County on 20 April 2007. He won the Luton Town Player of the Season award, voted for by the club's supporters.
West Bromwich Albion
Barnett completed a move to Championship club West Bromwich Albion on 26 July 2007 for an initial fee of £2.5 million. The fee would rise by a further £250,000 depending on appearances and the club would have to pay Luton a further £250,000 should they gain promotion to the Premier League. He signed a four-year contract, keeping him at the club until 2011. Barnett made his debut for the club in a 2–1 away defeat to Burnley on the opening day of the 2007–08 season. He scored his first goal for the club in a 3–2 away win over Scunthorpe United on 22 September 2007. Barnett scored his second goal of the season in a 1–1 draw with Stoke City on 3 October 2007. His performance in a 2–1 away win over Leicester City on 8 December 2007 earned him a place in the Championship Team of the Week. Barnett later scored a header, his third goal of the season in a 1–1 draw with Watford on 12 April 2008. He played the full 90 minutes in a 2–0 away win over Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season, which was enough to guarantee West Brom the Championship title. As a result, this triggered a promotion clause which was agreed with his former club Luton, thus the latter received an add-on of £250,000 from his transfer. Barnett made 36 appearances during the season, scoring three times.
Following West Brom's promotion, Barnett made his Premier League debut on the opening day of the 2008–09 season in a 1–0 away defeat to Arsenal. One week later, he made another starting appearance in a 2–1 home defeat to Everton. Barnett played in the League Cup second round match against Hartlepool United, who produced an upset by defeating West Brom 3–1 after extra time, with Barnett responsible for losing possession in the lead up to their first goal. He played the full 90 minutes in a 0–0 draw with Bolton Wanderers four days later, helping to keep a clean sheet to earn West Brom their first point of the season. Barnett made another starting appearance two weeks later, helping West Brom to win their first match of the season in a 3–2 win over West Ham United by winning a penalty after he was tripped by Robert Green, which was converted by Roman Bednář. However, during West Brom's next match against West Midlands rivals Aston Villa, he was at fault for conceding both goals and lost 2–1 as a result. His poor performance meant he was dropped to the substitutes bench and remained an unused substitute for the subsequent match, a 1–0 away win over Middlesbrough on 27 September 2008, West Brom's first away win of the season. Barnett was as an unused substitute for a further eight matches, during which time he sustained a knee injury, before coming on as a 27th-minute substitute for the injured Abdoulaye Meite in a 2–0 away defeat to Chelsea on 26 December 2008. Five starting appearances followed, but he sustained an injury and had to be substituted in the 39th minute during the latter match, a 3–0 home win over Middlesbrough on 17 January 2009. Barnett's injury meant he missed a 2–2 draw with Burnley one week later, before returning to the starting lineup for the next match, a 3–2 home defeat to Newcastle United. He made one further starting appearance in a 2–0 away defeat to Fulham two weeks later, before a recurrence of his knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Coventry City (loan)
On 4 November 2009, Barnett joined West Brom's Championship rivals Coventry City on loan until the end of January, having made just two substitute appearances in the league during the 2009–10 season. Barnett made his debut for the club in a 2–1 away defeat to Derby County on 6 November 2009. After making 11 appearances for the club during his initial loan spell, Barnett's loan with Coventry was extended until the end of the season on 2 February 2010. He conceded two penalties in consecutive league appearances, both of which saw him sent off in a 4–1 away defeat to Newcastle United on 17 February 2010, followed by a 2–1 home win over Scunthorpe United 10 days later. Barnett made 20 league appearances for Coventry during his time with the club.
Barnett at Carrow Road in 2012
On 26 August 2010, he joined Norwich City on loan until 4 January 2011, to cover for injuries sustained to Michael Nelson and Zak Whitbread, after having played his first match of the 2010–11 season for West Brom two days previously in a 2–0 away win over Leyton Orient in the League Cup second round. He was handed squad number 20 at Norwich and made his debut two days later in a 1–1 draw with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, forming a partnership with Elliott Ward. On 20 November 2010, Barnett scored his first goal for the club with a header from a David Fox corner in a 1–1 draw with Leeds United.
It was confirmed on 10 December 2010 that Barnett would join Norwich on a permanent three-and-a-half deal for an undisclosed fee, starting from 1 January 2011. On the following day, he conceded a penalty in a 2–0 home defeat to Portsmouth, for which he received his second yellow card of the match and was subsequently sent off. In protest, he threw the ball at referee Simon Hooper, which earned him an extended two-match ban from The Football Association. Barnett suffered a hamstring injury in a 2–1 home win over Reading on 12 February 2011, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. In his absence, Norwich won promotion to the Premier League as runners-up after a 2–0 away win over Portsmouth on 2 May 2011.
Barnett played in his first Premier League match for Norwich as a 71st-minute substitute for the injured Zak Whitbread in a 1–1 draw with Wigan Athletic on the opening day of the 2011–12 season. He started the next game, a 1–1 draw with Stoke City, but was adjudged by referee Neil Swarbrick to have committed a professional foul on Jonathan Walters in the second half, conceding a penalty and receiving a red card. On 26 September 2011, Barnett scored his first Premier League goal in a 2–1 home win over Sunderland. After featuring a 2–1 home defeat to Leicester City in the FA Cup fifth round on 18 February 2012, Barnett was only named in the matchday squad on two further occasions, but remained an unused substitute in both matches. He ended the season having made 18 appearances and scoring once.
Barnett's first appearance of the 2012–13 season was in a 1–1 draw with Queens Park Rangers on 25 August 2012. He made a further seven Premier League appearances, before featuring in three successive cup matches, the last of which was a 1–0 home defeat to former club Luton Town in the FA Cup fourth round on 26 January 2013, the first time a non-league club had knocked a Premier League club out of the FA Cup since 1989. On transfer deadline day, it appeared Barnett was no longer in the future plans of manager Chris Hughton, after he was offered as part of a bid in an attempt to sign Birmingham City defender Curtis Davies.
Cardiff City (loan)
On 14 March 2013, Barnett completed a one-month loan move to Championship club Cardiff City as a replacement for injured captain Mark Hudson. Barnett made his debut for the club two days later in a 2–0 away win over Sheffield Wednesday. He made eight appearances for the club, forming a defensive partnership with Ben Turner as Cardiff went on to win the Championship title. His loan was later extended until the end of the season, but he was recalled by Norwich on 24 April 2013 to cover for injuries to Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker.
On 1 August 2013, Barnett signed a three-year contract with newly relegated Championship club Wigan Athletic, transferring from Norwich City for an undisclosed fee. He scored on his debut in a 4–0 away win over Barnsley on the opening day of the 2013–14 season. Barnett featured in a 2–0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Community Shield at Wembley Stadium one week later. He scored his second goal for the club on 20 August 2013, rescuing a point in the final minute of a 2–2 draw with Doncaster Rovers. Barnett later made his Europa League debut in a 3–1 home win over NK Maribor on 8 October 2013. His third goal for the club was the opening goal of a 2–1 home win over Huddersfield Town on 2 November 2013. Barnett scored his first Europa League goal in a 2–1 home defeat to Zulte Waregem on 28 November 2013. Later in the season, Barnett scored a header from a Jordi Gómez free kick in a 3–1 away win over Ipswich Town on 15 March 2014. Wigan secured a place in the Championship play-offs after a 1–0 away win over Birmingham City on 29 April 2014, during which Barnett replaced Shaun Maloney as a 90th-minute substitute. A 2–1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers in the play-off semi-final second leg ended Wigan's hopes of an instant return to the Premier League after a 96th-minute winning goal from Charlie Austin, before which Barnett replaced Gary Caldwell as a 74th-minute substitute. Barnett ended his first season with the club having made 53 appearances and scoring five goals in all competitions.
Barnett began the 2014–15 season by playing the full 90 minutes in a shock 2–1 away defeat to League Two club Burton Albion in the League Cup first round on 12 August 2014. He remained an unused substitute for the majority of August and September, with the exception of substitute appearances in a 4–0 home win over Birmingham City on 30 August 2014, a 2–0 away defeat to Bournemouth on 27 September 2014, prior to a 0–0 draw with Nottingham Forest three days later, during which he replaced the injured Emmerson Boyce. In October, he was named in the starting lineup and played the full 90 minutes in every match, until receiving a red card for tripping over Hugo Rodallega in penalty area, thus conceding a penalty in a 3–3 draw with Fulham on 1 November 2014. After serving his suspension, Barnett returned to the starting lineup, continuing to play the full 90 minutes of every match, up to and including a 2–1 home defeat to Rotherham United on 20 December 2014. However, his sequence of starting appearances was ended by a hamstring injury which resulted in his absence from a 2–0 away win over Leeds United and the subsequent two matches. He returned to first-team football on 10 January 2015 in a 3–1 away defeat to Birmingham City, replacing the injured Iván Ramis in the 66th minute. Subsequently, Barnett made a further five starting appearances during January and February, before another injury saw him return to the sidelines for a 1–0 away win over Reading on 17 February 2015. Upon his return from injury, he was named on the substitutes bench for the remainder of the season, thus ending the season having made 21 appearances in all competitions.
With Wigan now in League One, following their relegation from the Championship at the end of the 2014–15 season, Barnett's first appearance of the 2015–16 season was once more a League Cup first round fixture, this time a 2–1 home defeat to League One rivals Bury. He scored Wigan's first goal during a 3–2 away win over Chesterfield on 5 September 2015 to begin a comeback from 2–0 down in the final 10 minutes. Barnett was sent off for a professional foul in Wigan's next match, a 3–2 away defeat to Port Vale one week later. Following his return from suspension, Barnett made eight consecutive starting appearances during September and October, but was dropped to the bench and remained an unused substitute during a 1–0 home win over Swindon Town on 31 October 2015. For the remainder of the season his first-team opportunities remained limited, restricting him to 24 appearances in all competitions. Barnett was not included in the matchday squad for Wigan's 4–0 away win over Blackpool, which secured their instant return to the Championship, before remaining an unused substitute in a 4–1 home defeat to Barnsley on the final day of the season which secured Wigan the League One title despite the result. On 3 June 2016, Wigan announced that Barnett would be released upon the expiry of his contract at the end of 2015–16.
Barnett signed a two-year contract with League One club Bury on 19 July 2016. He made his debut in a 1–0 home defeat to Oldham Athletic on 20 August 2016, during which he scored an own goal. One week later, Barnett scored first goal for Bury to begin a second half comeback from 3–0 down to earn a 3–3 draw away to Walsall. He suffered an injury in September 2016, and returned to the team for a 2–0 defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers on 24 October. Barnett was later ruled out through injury once more with a calf strain, and returned to the team almost three months later for a 1–0 victory at home to Swindon Town on 11 February 2017. He consolidated his place in the starting lineup, and finished 2016–17 with 26 appearances and one goal.
On 31 May 2017, Barnett signed a two-year contract with League One club Northampton Town on a free transfer.