Former footballer John Barnes has said Liam Neeson should be “given a medal” for revealing he went out looking for a black man to kill in revenge for the rape of a friend.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder praised the Irish star for confronting an uncomfortable truth about his past in an exclusive interview with The Independent.

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“Liam Neeson was talking about revenge, it doesn’t do anyone any good,” Barnes told Sky News.

“What he went onto say is that he was ashamed and horrified by what he felt. He’s not ashamed at wanting to commit the act of revenge. He’s ashamed and horrified because that is what he thought about all black people. After a week he realised he was wrong. That is what he said.”

The 55-year-old - who infamously endured racist taunts from opposition supporters during his illustrious career - suggested the context of Neeson's interview had been “spun”, and blamed the media for racist stereotyping.

He said: “You cannot blame him [Neeson] for thinking that [all black people are criminals]… because of the influence the media has.

"You cannot blame people for thinking that Muslims – because of Muslim grooming gangs, Jamaican yardie gangs – then people look at Jamaicans and Muslims in a negative light, and he is admitting that this is the way he viewed it.

“So for this one black person who raped this woman, he then looked at it as all black people are rapists.

"Now, what he’s actually saying is, ‘This is what I thought, this is what I saw, and I am ashamed and I am horrified, and after a week I thought to myself, 'What am I doing?’

“And that is the reality of it. As much as people are now jumping on this bandwagon of how terrible it is, what he’s done is he’s come out and told the truth.

"He [Neeson] should be applauded for saying, 'Yes, I was an unconscious racist and after a week I realised I was'. And people are going to be afraid of admitting it now because of what's happened to Liam Neeson."

Liam Neeson: ‘I walked the streets with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by a 'black b**tard' so that I could kill him’

In the interview, Neeson said his immediate reaction to being told a friend had been assaulted was to ask “Did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.”

The 66-year-old added: “"I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I'd be approached by somebody - I'm ashamed to say that - and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [uses air quotes with fingers] 'black bastard' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him."

The admission prompted anger on social media, where Neeson – who was promoting his new film Cold Pursuit – was widely condemned.

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