Date: 3rd June 2009 at 8:46pm
Written by:

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.


18 Replies to “Sentimental Man – Gareth Barry – Adios.”

  • Thanks for that Blandy, I’ll not let the good memories and years of top service be tainted by how he left, there would never have been a right way really, he goes, it hurts, we move on and so does he! I still say without him (and Milner on loan) we’d have gone down in the last year of DOL and for that I thank him, along with much more.

  • Emotion or sentiment don`t come into it for me because it does not matter,He has been a good player for villa over the years and thats that.

    We will sign someone else.

  • excellent article.It hurts when a player you love says youre not good enough,the players you always seem to have a soft spot for are ones that the club have decided to sell like Angel.The big plus I feel today is the club has been proved totally justified in keeping Barry last year,I think we’ve won the respect of other supporters for standing up to Liverpool,if we had have given in last year we would have only got 2-3 mil more than City paid.The club have set down a marker that its very difficult to prise away our best assets.Most Spurs fans were saying how they wish their board had handled the Carrick and Keane transfers the way our board handled the Barry situation.

  • To tell the truth i thought he should have went last season after he no longer wanted to be at Villa park. But i like to thank him for his many years of great service for us. PS MON please give Gardener a chance to shine in centre mid.

  • i was annoyed when i heard he left, but i’m over it now and feel he deserves to leave if he wants. wheather he left for money or to go to a club going places, as they have both, it’s not for me to judge as i would have probably done the same thing. good luck Barry, i hope you play in the world cup, but it will hurt a bit less if your crap at city.

  • What a great article. I think it sums up the thoughts of the rational fans superbly. Having had the pleasure of Gareths company on many occasions, I would like to add that he is generous to a fault, immaculately professional off the pitch as he is on it, and I wish him all the best. I think most fans would be amazed at what he has done off the pitch in the name of Aston Villa, if they were aware of just half of it. Still wish it wasn’t to Citeh he was going. But hey ho! No doubt the neanderthals will argue and spit out their little dummies and say ‘he was greedy’. But some, and obviously the writer of this article, know better.

  • Great article Blandy and very balanced. Absolutely agree. So sad to see Gareth go but he is a ‘player’ not a ‘supporter’ and has to do what he feels is best for his career prospects. Us as supporters should be pleased we had his services for so long and wish him all the best for the future.

  • Agree with the comments above. A very good article indeed. It is such a shame about the small-minded section of our support who have failed to appreciate what Barry has been and done for the club.

  • At last a sensible well written article on the Barry saga …..All I have heard for the last few days has been comments on how he did it for the money …..hello ……who out there truthfully would not change employers for a substantial increase in wages.

  • Agree with the text and comments from all above. Wish we had more people that shared this balanced, rational view. Top article – well done Sir.

  • Super article. The voice of reason in a maelstrom of over reaction and thoughtless barbs. Devastated to see my favourite (and our best) player leave, but the service he’s given to Villa, and the way he’s conducted himself while he was here have generally been exemplary.

  • I appreciate what Barry has done. But on the other hand I am still *****ing myself that he signed for City. What a load of *********. Oooh Oooh please let me go Martin ! I want to play Champions League football and achieve my ambitions, but not really I’m just a fat ass money grabbing tosser. I’ll write a letter to the birmingham mail just to convince the loyal fans who stuck by me when I was really ***** for a year or two that I really had to leave because Manchester City are in Europe and will spend ***** loads of money and win ***** all and have Hughes sacked before Christmas. Still, it’ll be nice picking up the extra pennies every week !

  • cwandc. You may say, and want, to work for the best company in the world at your chosen profession. However if an ambitious company, who are obviously going to join the big boys came along and offered to triple your money, give you security for life and pay you a years salary up front as an inducement to make the leap, are you telling me you would say no??? Of course not. If you did you would be a disgrace to your children, their future and your wife. Get over it. Like all Villa fans I would have loved Gareth to be a one club man. But that is not going to happen. It is not his fault he has been offered a deal too good to turn down. Fortunately we have received adequate compensation, which is more than can be said when Mellberg turned his back on us.

  • Oh bl**dy hell – now you’ve done it, voice – I’m not sure you’ll get away with having a go at Melly – even to prove a point! :o)

  • I know I know. And it is just to prove a point because I loved Mellberg. However he was loved for running down his contract and leaving the club getting nothing back after he cost us £5m. Whilst Barry was castigated for costing nothing, recouping us £12m, and giving us 12 great years service. I actually feel priveleged to have been at both Barrys first game at Hillsborough, and his final game, when it was his shot that led to sending the barcodes down.

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