NO SPOIL­ING GARETH’S BIG DAY

Daily Star Sunday - - RESULT! - By Peter Oakes

IT WOULD have taken some­thing very spe­cial to have robbed Gareth Barry of the head­lines.

But Ham­mers’ Pe­dro Obiang very nearly pro­vided it with a rare touch of stun­ning ex­trav­a­gance.

The Span­ish mid­fielder had his wits about him to spot Ben Fos­ter off his line and even though he was nearly 45 yards out he tried an au­da­cious at­tempt to catch out the Eng­land keeper.

He hit an amaz­ing ba­nana shot with his right foot that bent and dropped over Fos­ter.

At first it looked as if it was head­ing harm­lessly out of play but swung back on to tar­get and bounced off the top of the bar to leave fans at both ends gasp­ing in wide-eyed be­wil­der­ment.

Goal of the weekend? It would have been goal of the sea­son more like.

But back to the man of the mo­ment.

Tony Blair was toast­ing the end of his first year as Prime Min­is­ter, Boy­zone lauded it at the top of the charts and Corona­tion Street’s Dei­dre was get­ting used to life on the out­side af­ter be­ing wrongly con­victed of fraud.

And a slim, teenager called Gareth Barry came on as a 49th-minute sub to make his Pre­mier League de­but in As­ton Villa’s back three against Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, 69 days af­ter his 17th birth­day. Barry has vir­tu­ally out­lasted them all and,

19 years later, he has now made more Pre­mier League starts (600) than any­one else.

All things be­ing equal, he will break Ryan Giggs’ record of 632 Pre­mier League ap­pear­ances when Al­bion travel to The Emi­rates to face Ar­se­nal in nine days’ time.

Bag­gies boss Tony Pulis, who signed Barry from Ever­ton in the sum­mer, said: “Over the years watch­ing the lad play I’ve al­ways been a great ad­mirer.

“I hope the young play­ers in the club re­alise how lucky they are to see some­one of his qual­ity and ded­i­ca­tion.

“I am dis­ap­pointed he is not just start­ing with us and is com­ing to the back end of his ca­reer.

“He can play for another two or three years the way he looks af­ter him­self.”

Neat, tidy and qui­etly ef­fec­tive, he could also have been an un­likely match-win­ner had his

12th-minute header gone un­der rather than over the bar, via a de­fender’s shoul­der.

Sadly, this is not a game he will re­mem­ber among all the oth­ers – as that was one of only a cou­ple of gen­uine clear-cut chances cre­ated by Tony Pulis’ side.

But it might had been a dif­fer­ent story had ref Paul Tier­ney not been so le­nient when the Eng­land stop­per was only booked af­ter dash­ing from his area to take out striker Javier Her­nan­dez.

Plenty of of­fi­cials would have flashed a red card to leave West Brom fac­ing the last 24 min­utes with only 10 men.

A point was not enough to lift the Ham­mers out of the bot­tom three but at least it gives Slaven Bilic breath­ing space.

The Croa­t­ian said: “I have no com­plaints, it’s been a good week for us.”

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