Date: 1st July 2008 at 3:45pm
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Mark Delaney has tried to calm the unrest surrounding the Gareth Barry debacle, by attempting to get fans to see it from a players point of view.

Apologies to those who thought I meant he was off to Afganistan.

Former right back (remember one of them) and current voluntary Academy coach has said it would be ‘crazy’ for Barry to turn down repetative and persistent advances from the Scouses.

Speaking to the Mail, the 32 year old said:

“Gareth is the ‘main man` at Aston Villa and has been for some time.

“He is definitely a top-four player and is definitely an England regular. He has been Villa`s best player for the last four or five years and I am surprised it has taken this long for a big club to come along.

“When that knock on the door arrived it was Liverpool and they are an unbelievable club.’

It’s fair to take the point that Barry has been one of our most consistent players over the last few years, but I’d disagree on best player.

We also need to remember a few seasons back there was a caste iron offer from Pompey, and most likely a very acceptable one given the previous regime – yet Barry stayed.

Like it or loathe it, although personally I don’t see Liverpool as a step up in the way I’d consider Arse, Chelsea or Man U to be a step up given the potential for our growth, they will be in the Champions League, and it’s likely we won’t be for at least the next two seasons.

“I have not spoken to Gareth but he will be 28 in February. These are his ‘twilight` years. If he goes he will win trophies and if he doesn`t go it will be crazy for his career.

“He has to give it a go. If he can`t go the opportunity may never arise again. Liverpool might not ask again.

“He has to grasp this with both hands. This choice is Champions League and England with Liverpool or the InterToto with Villa.”

Really I think that should read Champions League/bench warming and England with Liverpool or England and the Intertwobob this season with Villa – but maybe it’s me.

“Martin O`Neill knows Liverpool are a bigger club than Villa. It hurts me to say that as a Villa supporter through-and-through. The club mean a hell of a lot to me. If he (O`Neill) didn`t say he would have done the same as a player he would be lying. Anyone would.’

I’m not sure, I remember Nottingham Forest being quite successful themselves. But yes Liverpool are a bigger club than us at the moment, living on historic reputation rather than true recent successes – although obviously their cabinet is a bit fuller than ours over the last decade.

Doesn’t mean it will be the same over the next 24 months does it?

“Randy Lerner could probably match what Liverpool offer Gareth in terms of wages but this is not about money.

“And the reason Martin has probably reacted like he has is that he knows Gareth will be hard to replace.

“It is unfortunate for Villa but these things happen.”

If it’s not about money then where is the transfer request, and the public announcement explaining to the fans his feelings?

“Gareth has been as loyal as any Villa player. The thing is, I cannot see them breaking the top four in his time.

“They exceeded all expectations last season. But can they do it again? I don`t know.

“If Gareth has a bad season in terms of form, or he gets injured, then there is no way Villa will get £18million.

“He loves Villa, as I do, but for his career this is the right move.”

I don’t know if we can, but what is a better bet is can a struggling Liverpool who were less than convincing in most games last season hold off the emergence of the likes of Villa, Pompey, Everton, a resurgent Spurs, a non imploding Man City and keep fourth spot themselves next season.

11 points difference between Liverpool and Everton, and 16 between us and them – that’s only a few games, a few wins and how many did we throw away last season!

The gap is not as big as some would hope.