Writer: J P Fear
Date:Wednesday September 12 2007
Martin O'Neill has set the world of football right saying that Gareth Barry is the same quality as the likes of Frank Lampard and that he deserves his England place on merit, not just as a stand in.
Reports have suggested this week that Barry will keep his place because Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves aren't fit. However Barry's performance against Israel in the heart of midfield was just as good and in many cases better, than those that have gone before him. I'm sure all remember the midfield not turning up at the last World Cup for instance?
The Villa boss said of his captain:
'There's hellish competition in there when you look at Frank Lampard and all the rest of those boys in there now. That's where England are particularly strong and Gareth is in there mixing it with those, which is terrific. And who's to say he can't come out of it on the other side of it as good as any of them? Gareth went into these games with the confidence of knowing he could compete with these players because he's been doing it regularly and well at that high tempo in the last season.'
He does admit that you have to consistently perform at that level to keep your place adding, 'He was great on Saturday. It must have given his confidence a huge boost, to know that he not only coped with it but was really impressive was fantastic. I thought he did brilliantly. He certainly wasn't a shrinking violet in the game. I thought he imposed himself on the match which was great.'
Former Villa manager Graham Taylor has also waxed lyrical about Barry. He said: 'Barry and Steven Gerrard combined very well, but it must be said that they were given all the time in the world to play, with the Israeli midfield players never closing them down. Personally, I was very pleased for Barry. When I rejoined Aston Villa in February 2002 he was struggling to maintain his place in the first team. His partnership with Gerrard was there for all to see. We all know the latter likes to get forward from his central midfield position and whenever he did so against Israel you only had to look some 15 yards behind him to see Barry giving him the protection required. One goes forward, one stays. A basic principle and easy enough to apply, especially when it is natural to both players.'
I'm sure I saw Steven Gerrard quoted, or was it just the reporter talking...(?) saying he felt the team was the most balanced it had been for years? Long may it continue and lets hope McClaren has the guts to stick with the winning formula (if indeed we win!) when the other players are back in contention. It never hurts any player to realise they aren't automatic selections.
Meanwhile the England U21's beat Bulgaria 2-0 last night with both Gabriel Agbonlahor (subbed on 70 mins) and Luke Moore (came on as a sub 81mins) featuring. Craig Gardner was an unused sub.
Date:Wednesday September 12 2007
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