Date:Wednesday June 3 2009
Sentimental Man - Gareth Barry - Adios.
What to make of GB's departure to Man City?
Firstly the pros and cons.
My view is that the timing (and the money for all concerned) is right, not just in terms of it being early in the window, leaving plenty of time for a replacement(s) to be found, but also in terms of both the career of GB and the evolution of the Villa side.
Along with Martin Laursen, Gareth was a class act at Villa. He was for a long time the only class act at the club, though in recent times, Ashley Young, Laursen, Mellberg at his best and maybe Stan Petrov have all added to the mix. His are big boots to fill. But at the same time, Villa had become kind of set in their way of playing, and this perhaps contributed to teams 'working us out' and led to our recent poor run.
I also feel that's Gareth's statement that he was worried about becoming stale (read 'has never known anything but Villa') is a very pertinent factor. It can't fail to have an effect, all the chats with players from other clubs, at England squad meetings, in terms of wanting to see and experience life more widely than at Villa. This would lead to stagnation and a loss of drive, I feel, once you feel you've accomplished all you can envisage at one club.
For City, he is exactly the type of player they lacked last season - they had plenty of attacking verve, especially at home, but sorely lacked any stabilising calm away from home. They were very much all or nothing. With GB there, I feel they will fare much better due to his use of the ball, his nous of where to be when the ball is with the othr side, or other players in his own team - he often seems to be a move or so ahead of other players.
So with money to burn, City did the deal properly and neatly, unlike that clown Benitez last summer.
Villa get a very good fee for a player with just 1 year left, and just 6 months till he could have started talking to other clubs about a free transfer. And once that happens, the mind is completely gone and players get unsettled.
The reaction from fans has tended to split 2 ways, with no middle ground.
Some have said 'greedy judas' and others 'he deserves the chance to move, the time is right, let's get on with life'. I'm in the second camp.
I guess, sadly, he'll get abuse when he comes back. It's the way of these things. It doesn't always happen like that, but mostly it does. And there's no logical way you can work out what will happen - the grounds for the abuse/cheer decision are complex and often wildly illogical.
Some players such as Paul McGrath, Sid, Brian Little...will always, always be lauded. Others, like Southgate always jeered by some. There is no logic, because much of what happens is based on sentiment. Whether that be sentiment as sympathy, if that's the right word, or sentiment because the player was a winner, or because they were unarguably in a league of their own, or sentiment because they've gone somewhere 'unapproved of' by the fans. Go abroad, and you'll probably stand a better chance of a good reception, go to a club who are 'hated' and you'll get loads - Yorkie to Man U springs to mind.
There's also the 'spurned' feeling that comes into it. 'He spurned our affections' - even when the affection is not actually spurned, there's no shrift given to genuine words uttered at the time of the move, such as those in his letter.
Olof showed the best way to leave, perhaps. Go abroad, generously thank the fans - I've proudly got the shirt he gave me on the wall. It helped that he was a fine player, too, with a disdain for small heath.
It's also true that so many players move, or are moved, that pretty much all scenarios have been acted out many times before. There's an established ritual to be gone through - media phone ins, local paper letters pages and the like practically beg for the more excitable responses from fans - whether that be the tearful kids (or men and women if you 're in Newcastle) or the foaming rage of the caricature supporters the media lazily resorts to.
In the case of 'club's best player moves to rivals' then there will nearly always be strong antipathy, no matter whether the jeerers would have done the same thing, had they a chance to do so. But we fans don't get the chance. Fans and players are different beasts entirely. Employees and spectators are so different in so many respects. I fear Gareth is going to cop for this 'crime'
What I can say is that, for me, while GB was at Villa he did himself and the club proud for the vast majority of the time here. The odd youthful indiscretion apart, the odd willful war with a manager over style of play and some very ill advised foot stamping last summer, aside.
As you'd expect, he learnt from all of those things. A sign of his game and personality has always been to learn new roles, new approaches, and always on his terms.
Perhaps by chance he stayed when he might have left just before MO'N came in 3 years ago. We both benefitted from that piece of luck. He got his career re-invigorated on the back of the hyper enthusiastic clean broom, and Villa got him playing in a way that got the team really flying.
Villa will, of course, move on, whether up, down, or sideways, but squads continually evolve - changing for one reason or another all the time. To think that anything in football is permanent is a mistake.
I can't say that after watching him all these seasons that my reservoir of feeling about Gareth Barry is anything than hugely in the plus side, and for that reason I won't be one of the ones who will give him stick next time our paths cross.
He says he'll always look for Villa's results first, and I'll certainly be watching his progress with interest.
Cracking player, and by all accounts a good egg. He did Villa proud, overall. That's got to be worth something in the sentiment stakes, surely.
I hope in the years to come you appreciate the fortune you had in playing for and Captaining Aston Villa Football club and that you remember us with pride and affection, and I hope too that we can feel the same affection towards your time here.
Good luck fella.
Date:Wednesday June 3 2009
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