A tribute to the City midfielder who has joined Everton on loan
Gareth Barry was certainly a footballer who polarised opinion. Opposition fans, in particular, would frequently lament his lack of pace, as though speed is the only attribute worth possessing in the modern game. His failure to catch Mesut Ozil during the 2010 World Cup is frequently cited as an example, regardless of the fact that Barry was clearly carrying an injury throughout the tournament. He would also be disregarded by some as nothing more than a limited defensive midfielder; a “water carrier”, if you will.
However, such lazy clichés ignored Barry’s many qualities. Those of us who watched him week in, week out (and, dare I say, with a better understanding of the game) recognised the significant contribution that Barry made to the team. His team mates, too, were quick to acknowledge his talents; it was telling that in the title winning season of 2011/12, David Silva had no hesitation in nominating Barry as his player of the year.
He possessed great composure and ability to read the game, allied with good distribution of the ball. Attributes, you could say, that were clearly missing in the recent disjointed performances against Cardiff and Hull. He also had an uncanny ability to win free kicks and relieve pressure on the team, by getting his not inconsiderable arse in between ball and opponent and drawing the inevitable foul.
Barry was a great servant for City, and at £12m represented good value at a time when the club were regularly paying vastly inflated transfer fees. He was reliable, and the consummate professional (apart from that time he was filmed getting leathered with a load of students at St Andrews, of course, but we’ll forgive him that).
I’m sad to see him leave; deep down I hoped that he would get to see out the final year of his contract, before joining the newly formed New York City as one of their first marquee signings. Alas, there is no room for such sentimentality in the age of Financial Fair Play, and it’s not viable to have a peripheral squad player picking up in excess of £100,000 a week. It also wouldn’t have been fair to the player himself, as he still has much to offer at the top level. At his age he deserves regular football, which was looking increasingly unlikely at City. When Javi Garcia is getting selected ahead of you, you know your time is up.
Barry was an integral part of the City team that won the first silverware of my lifetime, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. I wish him all the best at Everton, despite having no great love for his new club. A compliment frequently paid to Barry was that “you notice when he’s not there” and, on the evidence so far this season, that still holds true.