By 90Min
August 15, 2017

It is something of an irony that the man who downed West Brom in Everton's last visit to the Hawthorns is about to join the Baggies permanently.

Last August, Ronald Koeman - in just his second match of his Toffees managerial career - was handed his first victory when veteran midfielder Gareth Barry guided a far post header past a despairing Ben Foster to complete a come-from-behind triumph in the Midlands.

Just shy of 12 months on and the 36-year-old is on the cusp of a surprise move to join up with Tony Pulis' side, and his imminent departure has left the majority of Evertonians in something of a glum mood.

Stu Forster/GettyImages

The tributes that have been paid to Barry by Everton's fanbase prove just how much the ex-Manchester City and Aston Villa man has turned opinions around about his ability on the ball - this writer included - following his initial arrival on a season-long loan during the 2013/14 campaign.

Barry's extensive passing range, positional sense and speed of thought have all helped to sway skeptical Evertonians around throughout his four-year Goodison career, and more than made up for the lack of physical attributes that many thought would lead to him being a wretched signing.

One of the very few bright sparks - particularly in the transfer market - from the Roberto Martinez era, Barry's accumulated 155 appearances for Everton offer stern evidence to his importance on the pitch, and his professionalism, expertise and leadership have been invaluable off it too.

The emergence of talented midfield star Tom Davies from the club's academy, coupled with the arrivals of Idrissa Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin under Koeman, have unfortunately forced Barry down the pecking order under the Dutchman, but it is a measure of how well Barry is respected that Koeman stated his seeming reluctance to sanction his departure.

Speaking after Saturday's 2017/18 opening day victory over Stoke, Koeman said: “If players are unhappy...Gareth is a great professional and I’m happy if he will stay but if he will like to move, OK, we will see what happens. I don’t know.”

Those comments, coupled with ones that the 55-year-old stated in praise of Barry following that 2-1 victory over West Brom a year ago - “He’s still one of the best players that I have managed in my teams because of the cleverness of him in football is really a high quality” - go a long way to demonstrating the high regard with which Barry is held in.

With first-team chances looking limited for the 55-times capped England international this term, it is only fair to allow him the chance of passing Ryan Giggs as the Premier League's all-time record appearance holder.

His impending switch to West Brom would give him the opportunity to do so, with Barry likely to start more often than not under Pulis, and eclipse the Manchester United legend's 632-match haul.

Everton may not miss Barry as a mere number - indeed, the club's senior ranks are inundated with centre midfield options - but his presence in and around the dressing room will be conspicuous in its absence.

A fine servant who has never failed to give his all for the royal blue jersey, Barry will depart with every Evertonian's best wishes. So long, 'Gaz Baz'.

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