With Advent now under way and the countdown to Christmas now on, Typical City is looking at an incident, player or match specific to the club that corresponds with each date. In today’s edition, Rob Toole looks back at former number 18 Gareth Barry and his City career…
When you think of City’s most important players of the last six years I bet there is one name that doesn’t immediately spring to mind: Gareth Barry. Understandably, the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero stand out. After all, each of them has iconic moments attached to their very existence in a City shirt. Yaya’s numerous Wembley goals, Silva’s incredible scissor kick pass when City put six past United, Kompany’s header against the same team as City edged closer the their first Premier League title and, of course, that Aguero goal. It is much harder to pick out such a moment for Barry, though. In many respects, he is the ultimate unsung hero.
Signed from Aston Villa in June 2009 for £12million, Barry’s transfer to Manchester was viewed a shrewd business by onlookers, especially when you consider we were in an era where City were notorious for shelling out inflated prices for mediocre players. After being courted for a number of seasons by Liverpool, City stepped in and got what can only be considered, in the fullness of time, an absolute bargain.
The holding midfielder, who had spent 11 years at Villa Park, came into an unbalanced City team and immediately set about bringing stability to an otherwise chaotic midfield. He did the dirty work that often went unnoticed and his excellent reading of the game went great lengths to improving City’s whole dynamic. All of sudden, the back four were protected and there was a link between attack and defence. One thing that always stands out in my mind was his ability to turn on his heel and create an acre of space for himself so that he could look up and find a pass. Essentially, he made what is, no doubt, a very difficult skill look incredibly easy.
Oddly enough, Barry was sometimes a divisive figure amongst the City support. Some lamented his lack of flair and glamour and failed to see what he brought to the team. In my opinion, those who were ever in doubt about him didn’t appreciate the finer subtleties of the game. It speaks volumes for his ability and value that he was a mainstay in Roberto Mancini’s FA Cup and title winning sides. Without Barry the likes of Silva and Toure would not have enjoyed the freedom to attack with such devastating effect like they did in those halcyon days.
When fans decried the club’s decision to sell Nigel De Jong in the summer of 2012 (and some still do), they seemed to forget that it was Barry who reduced De Jong’s role in the 2011/12 season to a bit part player. That is not to denounce the Dutchman’s contribution to City as he was a great player but, surely, it only emphasises Barry’s standing given that he was ahead in the pecking order in such a huge season for the club. In total, he made 34 Premier League appearances that season, just three of those were from the bench. For comparison, David Silva made 36 appearances with three from the bench. That says it all, doesn’t it?
When Manuel Pellegrini replaced Mancini in the summer of 2013 it signalled the end of Barry’s time at City. The club seemed keen to change their style and Barry was deemed surplus to requirements. He spent the final season of his contract on loan at Everton and, funnily enough, his loan spell at Goodison proved, yet again, what a quality player he was.
He will never be the first name you think of when you talk about City greats, but it is impossible to ignore the huge contribution he made to the City’s recent period of success. We should all be grateful for what he did for the club. He is the ultimate unsung hero.
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Written by Rob Toole