NO SPOILING GARETH’S BIG DAY
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.”