Gareth the Great - Barry the Brillant
From when he made his debut as a floppy haired skinny lad in that memorable game away to Sheff Weds nearly a decade ago to this, his most prolific season, he has been a truly worthy of the title ‘Villa Great’. By the time he kicks his last ball in the claret and blue he will no doubt have been elevated to the rank of ‘Villa Legend’ - and that is not an accolade given lightly. If he stays injury free then I see no reason why he can’t be our second highest appearance holder of all time, which in this day of mega money moves and the lack of loyalty that breeds, is really quite something.
Along with Gary Neville, he is the only player to have been picked by the last five England managers so that surely tells a story about just how consistent a player he has been during his career. He is also the record holder of U-21 caps with a whopping 27 caps to compliment his 8 senior caps.
During his career at Villa Park he has seen the occasional high but one hell of a lot of lows and it is to his testimony that he hasn’t followed suit of fellow team mates in jumping ship in the hope that the grass is greener – or should that be chasing the Great British Pound? Even this most loyal of servants had his patience tested to the full this summer and we very nearly lost him but MON came in and convinced him he could lead us into the promised land and, as a bonus, he could win back his England shirt. I am just so pleased for him that these promises appear to be coming to fruition and he will be an excellent ambassador for the club as our profile raises throughout the planet.
Under the previous regime we always had a fairly good team but the concept of a good squad seemed a bit lost on Unky Herb, and in that scenario Gareth Barry has proved totally invaluable. He has played – and excelled – as a central defender, one of a back three, left back and now left midfield. This versatility really should have guaranteed him a place in the squad for every single major tournament England have entered but rather bewilderingly he has only ever made it to Euro 2000. I believe that has always been to do with perception of Aston Villa within the media and public at large but with one of the highest respected managers in the game, a new and exciting brand of football and unbelievable strides being made off the pitch I think the old image is being eradicated and this will lead to many more caps for our own Gareth Barry.
I hope the fool in charge doesn’t give you 15 mins at right back, but wherever you play I’m sure you will shine out. Gareth is England's answer as back up to Joe Cole on the left of midfield but for the Spain game he will have to be the marauding left back.
You make all Villans proud, but not as proud as in 12 months time when Cahill, Young and Gabby join you!