Barry givesVilla stay­ing power

Daily Express - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL: - JOHN WRAGG

GARETH BARRY is over his con­tro­ver­sial bid to se­cure a move to Liver­pool and be­lieves that As­ton Villa are ca­pa­ble of break­ing into Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball this sea­son.

Barry has scored three goals in three games as Villa have climbed into the Premier League’s top four and made an im­pres­sive start in the UEFA Cup.

But Barry, who had a ma­jor row with man­ager Martin O’Neill when he could not get his dream sum­mer move to Liver­pool, says there is more to come.

Liver­pool lead the ta­ble but Villa are the sur­prise team chas­ing them along with the es­tab­lished car­tel of Chelsea, Manch­ester United and Arse­nal. “It is good just to get the whole sum­mer episode out of my sys­tem and con­cen­trate on what I am do­ing and en­joy do­ing,” said Barry. “Liver­pool is his­tory and you learn from it. It is part of my life, but it is gone.

“Top four in the Premier League for Villa is cer­tainly more re­al­is­tic than last sea­son when we were talk­ing about it.

“Even­tu­ally we are go­ing to find our­selves in the run for a top-four place. We’ll fancy our­selves, but it is a mas­sive step be­cause that top four has been there for a long while. They have such a big ad­van­tage with the play­ers they have got.

“The pun­dits say if any­one can break in then it will be us but they still don’t back us to get it. It would be nice to prove every­one wrong and make it.” Villa dragged them­selves out of a poor per­for­mance to beat Black­burn af­ter go­ing a goal down, and O’Neill praised his team for their “per­for­mance of the sea­son”, given how they res­cued them­selves from a dread­ful first half.

Barry lost the cap­taincy of Villa and was fined and barred from train­ing when his row with O’Neill over Liver­pool reached its height.

O’Neill has con­firmed that Martin Laursen will stay as cap­tain, but has con­stantly praised Barry’s per­for­mances this sea­son.

“Gareth is a very good player who played well for us last sea­son and is do­ing so again,” said O’Neill. “I do not tire of say­ing that or of oth­ers say­ing it on his be­half. Again, he played a very big part in us get­ting a win over Black­burn when in gen­eral we were poor.

“At times we looked tired as a team and with us be­ing in the mid­dle of a very busy pro­gramme, I am go­ing to have to ro­tate the play­ers to give them a rest be­cause they can’t all keep play­ing all the time.” Villa will de­fend their fourth place at New­cas­tle on Mon­day, then they are away to Slavia Prague in the UEFA Cup on Thurs­day fol­lowed by a home fix­ture with Mid­dles­brough the fol­low­ing Sun­day.

“In the UEFA Cup the man­ager rested a few and John Carew has had a rest since,” said Barry, who has now scored five goals this sea­son.

“The man­ager will as­sess it. If the stats about the amount of ground we can cover are slip­ping then he will make a judg­ment.

“I’m en­joy­ing get­ting th­ese goals. I have got a bit more li­cence to get for­ward now. I al­ways try to get in the penalty box and at the mo­ment the chances are fall­ing to me. This sea­son I am hop­ing to get into dou­ble fig­ures, which should be pos­si­ble as we are play­ing more games.”

Pic­ture: RICH EATON

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