Something For The Weekend (153)
I am not quite sure how many lions you actually need to call them a pride but this week, at least, three was enough for me.
I always knew Gareth Barry was good; very good, even, but I never dreamt in my wildest dreams that he was capable of the sort of level of performance, he demonstrated this week for England - twice. England look better when they have at least one Villa player in the side and I think the lions on the badge, should give them a clue - how many hints do they need?
For his first outing against Israel, I thought it was a one-off tour de force, which was unlikely to be repeated and everyone kept saying, it was only Israel. So for him to produce a replica masterclass some days later, against the Russians, found my pride only slightly exceeded by my pleasure and was I happy - it was like being in love without the overheads.
It was a performance which fell somewhere between Valderrama (minus the hair-do) and the late Johnny Haynes. In fact, I was so reminded of the few clips of Fulham's maestro, I have seen, that I had to check Johnny's date of demise, to clear my mind of the suspicion that Gareth was actually a reincarnation. But whatever, I am going to start calling him the 'Bottle of Hastings', from now on.
Being born in Hastings as he was, provides a neat historical link to the origin of his name, which is said to come from Philip de Barri, who was part of the Norman invasion. Gareth's ancestors might have been a member of the de Barri household, who settled in Hastings (late October 1066) or he, more likely, originated from the de Barri lands in Glamorgan, which makes him only slightly more English than
Michael Owen and one of the top Welshmen ever to wear the England shirt. But what would be even better would be if he came from the Irish branch of the family, which centres around Cork. This would make him possibly ancient kith of Roy Keane and John Terry, which are also names with strong associations with Cork - and make him a midfield Munster. But we'd better stop there before we discover the
whole of the England team are not really English. But whatever Barry's origins his performance was totally aristocratic.
What made me chuckle throughout the week, was the comments of Martin Keown, when asked his thoughts on Barry's selection. He said he was a good player who had been Villa's most consistent performer over the last few years, which was a good measure of his character, because, 'The fans are so unforgiving there'. I had to laugh because we all know its true and might account for why the guy left Villa and found his way to Arsenal and an England call-up. But you have to give credit where it is due, we might be a bunch of moaning Brummies but look how it builds character.
But whatever, it was a superb performance by Gareth, of which everyone must be so proud. And, as we search for the right superlative, we can do so in the knowledge that, no matter how carried away we get, Gareth will not. He's definitely Villa's captain Sensible.
It is at moments like this, that I wish I had kept in touch with the guy I used to sit next to, in the upper Trinity, who used to tell me about Gareth when he was captain of the youth team. Despite this guy giving me a free programme most weeks, I never did get to know his name and the only thing I knew was that he worked at Good Hope Hospital. If he is still out there, I would just like to say to him, 'You were right mate, he truly is a Villa Great!'.
The next thing that has to be faced, is can Villa now keep Gareth and more importantly, would Martin O'Neill want to, should a tasty offer come along?
It cannot have gone unnoticed, that Barry's pairing with Gerrard was a match made in heaven. It cannot be ignored that the sort of controlled displays, which have brought Barry the plaudits, are possibly valued even more, in leagues where the tempo of the game is not quite the charge of the light brigade, it is in the Premiership.
Traditionally, such a performance by a Villa player, was the sure sign that they would inevitably leave, whether it was, Gordon Cowans, David Platt, or Dwight Yorke. Not being cup-tied for European matches, Gareth could prove a big temptation for clubs hoping to bolster their chances early next year. The question would then arise, as to whether Villa could resist the temptation to cash in what looks like their prime asset, or whether Villa's days of being a knee-jerk selling-club, are behind them. Let's hope that that will be the manager's decision.
No doubt Martin O'Neill will have had an excellent week for two reasons, even discounting the likelihood that he would have been basking in the glow of the Chelsea win, like the rest of us, even if it only amounted to an improvement in his sleep, this past fortnight. It seems impossible to imagine that Martin would not have taken equal satisfaction, in Heskey's performance, as he did with Barry's. Heskey played an integral part in the success of O'Neill in his Leicester day's - promotion and two League Cups - and he would have little doubt about the lad's qualities.
Never, has Emile ever been a prolific goal-scorer but his unselfish running and substantial physical presence, has benefited many a striker who have played along side him. He's a player who needs to be loved to play at his very best and it therefore looked like a big mistake, when he decided that he would start falling down for a living. This did not endear him to the country's fans and that lack of endearment was carried over to the way he was received in an England shirt. His confidence suffered and so did his performances and it has to be noted, that for England he never fell down once and he was great.
Besides, you cannot be a cheat and expect to prosper, if your middle-name is Ivanhoe - its just not what your daddy wanted.
Football wise, I can't remember such a fortnight to savour and whether it ends in Manchester, or on the artificial pitch (sic) in Moscow, I won't be forgetting it in a hurry. The way football goes, you need to keep tight hold of these memories, to get you through those long dark nights of the soul, when things don't quite go so perfectly.
Three lions on the shirt but a lot more reasons to be proud.