Gareth Barry is a Premier League legend, but is he of equal standing at Aston Villa?
Some things make you feel your age, Macaulay Culkin, immortalised as burglar foiling Kevin McCallister in Home Alone turning 40 and Premier League record appearance maker Gareth Barry announcing his retirement from professional football are great examples. The signs were there that the end was near with injuries disrupting his time at West Brom, however it still felt as though Barry’s retirement was a day that would never come.
A piece about Barry will inevitably include clichés: A Rolls Royce of a player, Mr reliable, solid if not spectacular etc. All the banalities are truthful, Barry is a player who embodied reliability and class, so much so that his qualities benefited four huge clubs and resulted in a record 653 Premier League appearances, 53 England caps, a Premier League Title, FA Cup and of course the 2001 Intertoto Cup!
To Manchester City fans he is part of that illustrious group of players who secured the first wave of Abu Dhabi funded success, to the Everton and Albion fanbase he’s a midfielder who still had much to offer even as his 30’s ticked by, his Villa legacy is perhaps more complicated.
Barry made his name at Villa, spending 12 years with the club, transforming from a rookie defender to accomplished central midfielder and finishing up in the top 10 appearance makers in club history. There were awkward moments when he agitated for a move to Liverpool under Martin O’Neill, a period where he was stripped of the captaincy and plenty of flak came his way when he eventually headed to Manchester City, a club who at the time were outside of the Champions League and perhaps on a level footing with Villa. Villa have for too long been a selling club and his legacy is associated with that, rather than staying to continue the O’Neill top four push, he sought and achieved glory elsewhere.
Despite the service given to Villa, it’s unlikely he will ever be afforded legendary status, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognise just how much he gave to us. Dan Bardell of The Athletic called him ‘our best Premier League era player for what he gave to the club’, and he’s certainly in that conversation. Ultimately, regardless of whether he’s afforded unanimous adoration by the claret and blue faithful, he should be congratulated on a stellar career. Enjoy your retirement, Gareth.
Up the Villa!