Gareth barry

Foot­ball’s marathon man

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

THE Villa man­ager, John Gre­gory, set it up. The first in­ter­view Gareth Barry had ever done. He was 17 years old and had just signed his first pro­fes­sional con­tract.

“There you are Johnny boy,” said JG. “This is Gareth Barry. He’s go­ing to be a player. And he’s a mil­lion­aire at 17.”

Barry was shy. It was hard to get a few suc­ces­sive words out of him. He was a lad from Hast­ings, East Sus­sex not used to all this glare of pub­lic­ity.

After about half an hour with Gareth, po­lite but ret­i­cent, I had to go back to Gre­gory to fill in the many gaps. He was ef­fu­sive, both about Barry on the field and off it.

“We’ve got a good one here. Not sure yet where his best po­si­tion is. Not blessed with a lot of pace, but he’s a good foot­baller Johnny boy, you mark my words.”

Barry’s move to Villa from Brighton where he was a trainee in 1997 caused a right row. Villa took him and Michael Stand­ing amid ac­cu­sa­tions of poach­ing and in the end a tri­bunal de­cided on a fee of £2.5m for the both of them.

Liver­pool sub­se­quently bid over £15m for Barry 11 years later, Villa man­ager Martin O’Neill get­ting into a big row with the An­field club about it and a year later Barry went to Manchester City for £12m.

Ever­ton got a bar­gain when they first took him on loan from City and then signed Barry full time when his Manchester City con­tract was up.

Just re­cently Tony Pulis did the same, get­ting Barry for £1m at West Brom be­cause he had been told he wouldn’t be play­ing much any­more for Ever­ton.

And still, after all these years and a record num­ber of Premier League games, Barry wants to go on. And on.

Barry is 36 now. He’s passed Ryan Giggs’ Premier League ap­pear­ance record of 632 and is think­ing of clock­ing up 700.

Men­tally, Barry is strong. He blew a fuse when O’Neill wouldn’t let him go to Liver­pool, ac­cused O’Neill of do­ing noth­ing to of­fer him a new con­tract and said he wanted to play Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball.

O’Neill was hav­ing none of it. He thought Liver­pool had tapped up Barry and took the Villa cap­taincy off him, fined him two weeks wages and made him train with the kids.

It shows Gareth is not al­ways placid. There’s fire in the belly and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed and get what he wants.

“You get a lot of changes, ups and downs, things you can’t con­trol.You have to think it through.You can’t be neg­a­tive about sit­u­a­tions,” says Barry.

When he first joined Villa no-one was sure where Barry should be play­ing.

He joined Villa at 16 years old be­cause he thought he’d get games there, an ideal that has stayed with him.

“It was a bit of a trial case when my­self and Michael Stand­ing left Brighton be­cause in those days you came through the ranks and you stayed at the club,” he says.

The money Brighton even­tu­ally got helped them through some dire times. They were play­ing not very well in what is now League Two and were close to go­ing out of busi­ness. The two-and-a-half mil­lion helped even if Brighton did have to sell their Gold­stone Ground in the end when the debts piled too high. Barry had not even played a youth team game at that stage but go­ing full-time at Villa and work­ing with coaches Tony McAn­drew, Kevin MacDon­ald, who is still run­ning Villa’s un­der-23s, and ex-first team star Gor­don Cowans brought him on in leaps and bounds. Barry had al­ways played in mid­field but at Villa he played at full-back and as one of three cen­tre-halves in a first team trio of cur­rent Eng­land cap­tain Gareth South­gate and the late Ugo Ehiogu. It was May 2, 1998 when Barry played his first game, a 49th minute sub in a 3-1 away win at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day. Barry was 17 and 69 days old. The Clin­ton and Lewin­sky scan­dal broke that year, Ti­tan­tic was on at the pic­tures. Dwight Yorke, Lee Hen­drie and Ju­lian Joachim scored. Si­mon Grayson, now man­ag­ing Sun­der­land, was in the Villa team and Barry came on for Ian Tay­lor. No one else from that Villa team is still play­ing. Man-of-the-match was Joachim. Sh­effield Wed­nes­day man­ager Ron Atkin­son slammed his side for not car­ing. Gre­gory was hop­ing for Euro­pean foot­ball and he was to get his wish. Barry was not men­tioned in re­ports. “It was the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for any young­ster com­ing in and look­ing to learn the ropes,” says Barry of his early years. “I was for­tu­nate that things were go­ing well most of the time, Villa were chal­leng­ing for the top six, we had a good side.” By 2009 Barry had his big choice to make - move to Liver­pool or Man City. At the time it was a gam­ble to go to City. The huge cheques were just be­ing

signed, the Sheikh rev­o­lu­tion was get­ting un­der­way and Barry was swayed by the golden vi­sion.

“I had a good feel­ing about it, the lure of be­ing part of a team that could win tro­phies. It turned out to be a good choice al­though at the time no one was sure it was go­ing to hap­pen.”

Barry was at Manchester City for four years, win­ning the first tro­phy of the Sheikh Years, the FA Cup fi­nal vic­tory over Stoke in 2011.

“That cup meant a lot to me. I’d been around a while by then, played a lot of games and it was a re­lief to get that first win­ner’s medal.”

It was also the first cup Manchester City had won for 35 years. The Premier League ti­tle fol­lowed the next sea­son and for Barry there were 53 Eng­land caps and three goals.

“The Eng­land caps come in a par­cel through the post,” he told me in an­other in­ter­view. “When the par­cel drops on the mat my kids love it, some­thing to play with.”

Barry’s best Eng­land years were un­der Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello and he went to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“We went out to Ger­many with that Frank Lam­pard goal that wasn’t given.”

Last sea­son Barry was Ever­ton player of the sea­son and play­ers’ player of the sea­son, a re­sound­ing vote of con­fi­dence that was not shared by his man­ager, Ron­ald Koe­man.

Barry had left City be­cause he was told he wouldn’t be play­ing as much and after suc­cess­ful years un­der Roberto Martinez at Ever­ton, Koe­man came up with the same speech.

“I want to play reg­u­larly. I still feel I have a lot to of­fer,” says Barry.

“I’d love to tell you I do things dif­fer­ently, but I haven’t got a special rou­tine or I’m 100 per cent ded­i­cated to my body and don’t eat junk food. It’s not true. I lead a nor­mal life.

“I’ve changed some things. I do an ex­tra warm-up in the morn­ing, I do yoga and look after my­self bet­ter on the re­cov­ery days.

“But there is not a ‘plan’. It’s just good genes from my mum and dad.”

Barry has only been at West Brom for a small part of his marathon ca­reer but the club de­voted six pages to him in the club pro­gramme for the West Ham home game when he equalled Giggs’ record. There were TV in­ter­views and a special Gareth Barry me­dia morn­ing in the build-up to the record-break­ing Ar­se­nal game, his 633rd Premier League ap­pear­ance.

But what hap­pened to his Brighton col­league Michael Stand­ing?

He played 151 games in mid­field for Brad­ford City,Wal­sall, Ch­ester­field, Bournemouth, Ox­ford United, Grays, Lewes and Shore­ham.

Then Barry ap­pointed his best mate from school as his agent. A marathon friend­ship for foot­ball’s marathon man.

Cup win­ner: At Man City

All-smiles: With Arsene Wenger

Thanks: Barry salutes the West Brom fans

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