In defence of Gareth Barry

(Getty)

Gareth Barry. Mention his name to most non-supporting Manchester City football fans and the responses will be roughly the same.

Slow, water carrier, boring and past it are some of the most popular descriptions of Barry trotted out without too much thought. And the lasting image? That would have to be of Mesut Ozil leaving him for dead in Germany’s 2010 World Cup thrashing of England.

If you believed everything you heard about Barry without actually watching him, then you would struggle to understand how he could be a Premier League footballer.

And yet Barry is not just a Premier League footballer, he is one of the key players in the best side in the country.

Who would have thought Barry would have survived all the Manchester City spending sprees and exciting foreign imports?

Who would have thought that a side containing so many stars could miss Barry so much?

Fulham and Sunderland may not have provided the sternest of tests, but it is no coincidence that City have clicked into gear since his return to fitness.

For those who like statistics, Barry scored a 90 per cent pass completion rate over the Fulham and Sunderland games. He rarely loses the ball, he reads the game superbly, he wins tackles and he stays on his feet.

 Barry’s biggest problem seems to be that he is just not that exciting. If he was an Inbetweener, he would be Simon – perfectly nice but ever-so-slightly bland.

He doesn’t try Hollywood passes (that sail out of play), he doesn’t race past two men (only to gift possession back to the opposition with a terrible cross) and he doesn’t shoot from 30-yards (into the watching crowd). That is exactly why his managers and team-mates like him so much.

Don’t believe me? Then ask David Silva, who should know a thing or two about what makes a good player as a member of Spain’s all-conquering squad. Silva voted Barry his Player of the Year last season, placing the midfielder ahead of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart.

Goalkeeper Hart also realises Barry’s value, saying: “Gareth is the man. When you start to panic, look at Gareth and he just keeps on doing what he is doing – and doing the unselfish role he does.”

We like to claim England has become a more cultured football environment with a greater appreciation of tactics and the ability to keep the ball. To a certain extent that is true. But it seems Barry’s understated style lacks the ‘wham bam thank-you mam’ qualities that we still judge our heroes against.

In much the same way a blushing Simon gets tongue-tied and nervous in front of the opposite sex in the Inbetweeners, Barry turns a shade of pink as he struggles in front of cameras and microphones. He almost trembled his way through interviews up until a few years ago and, even though he has become more confident, Barry still rarely creates too many headlines.

Read the rest of “In defence of Gareth Barry: He might not be sexy – or popular – but the midfielder is central to City and England’s success.”

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