The one thing everybody can agree on is that Neil Barnett is "proper Chels." He's been there from the start for Chelsea TV (2001), making the step up from covering the team for the club magazine. He's also been the voice of Stamford Bridge, announcing lineups before the games and often doing a bit of cheer-leading as he stands on the pitch to pump up the crowd. Short of actually sprouting an armrest and four wooden legs, he's become part of the furniture. And now it would appear that he's being replaced, at least to a certain extent.
Sounds like Neil Barnett has read his last pre-match team sheet. Reduced role at Chelsea TV too. Another link with the old Chelsea cut.— Dan Levene (@BluesChronicle) December 8, 2014
Unfortunately, Levene doesn't offer any more detail, so we're left to speculate for what is going on exactly.
Barnett, or Spy as he was affectionately known, certainly had a unique style, one much more suited to a fan than a member of a (more sanitized) official club media. Unsurprisingly, his style often divided opinion.
Neil Barnett's worst quality was the way he said 'John. Ter. Eeeeeeeeee' before every Chelsea game. Won't miss that.— Ben McAleer (@BenMcAleer1) December 8, 2014
I was never his biggest fan, but Neil Barnett was Chelsea. He loves the club. Part of the furniture. Won't miss him, but sad to see him go.— Frankie (@Frankiee44) December 8, 2014
Back in the early days of Chelsea TV, he had his own insiders show but eventually he ran afoul of someone with power and his role on the TV side of things was reduced to his famously awkward and sometimes nonsensical player interviews.
When I asked Barnett why he was banned from Cobham, he said: "Because I call a c*** a c***." Strange man. Wonder if we'll miss him tho.— Kelvin Barker (@ChelseaKelv) December 8, 2014
In recent years, Barnett's become a regular on Sirius XM satellite radio as well, often co-hosting their morning Football Show and giving a very welcome Chelsea slant to the proceedings. (Regular co-host Charlie Stillitano often calls him "my friend with the big Blue head.") If his reduced role at Chelsea was not forced, perhaps he was motivated by other such outside opportunities. But given that he's a lifelong Chelsea fan, it's hard to see this as a voluntary action by Neil.