Remembering Where it All Began for Premier League Record Breaker Gareth Barry

Publish date:

On Monday night Gareth Barry set a new Premier League record by playing his 633th game in England's top flight.

Incredibly, it is now 19 years since the midfielder made his debut in the Premier League, then for Aston Villa.

At the time, a teenage Barry played predominantly at centre-back with Ugo Ehiogu and Gareth Southgate. However, Barry's technical ability was somewhat wasted in defence and he quickly moved from centre-back, to left-back and then into left-midfield.

Even at a young age Barry was exceptionally gifted on the ball and was excellent passer, tackler, dribbler and crosser, who could also score the odd goal.

Gareth Barry
Gareth Barry

However, it wasn't until the arrival of Martin O'Neill at Villa Park in 2006, that Barry converted into the deep-lying midfielder we know now.

Barry had always possessed a superb range of passing and was fantastic defensively, but under the Northern Irishman he took his game to the next level and became one of the standout midfielders in the league.

The now West Brom man added a level of composure and calmness to his play under O'Neill, whilst his ability to stop opposition attacks - an often under appreciated, yet vital role - improved immensely.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League
Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League

O'Neill also helped instil an added sense of leadership in Barry, who regularly drove Villa onto success. His performances were so impressive that Barry even forced his way back into the England squad.

Yet it was perhaps on the international stage, where Barry's career has been somewhat stunted, and just 53 international caps is an unfair reflection of his ability.

What made Barry great during his eleven year stint at Villa, was the all round nature of his game, which contained few weaknesses.


He may have lacked the passing range of Gerrard, the defensive work of Vieira and the attacking capabilities of Lampard, but there were certainly no frailties in his game. 

Perhaps the biggest criticism that can be levelled at Barry, especially during the Villa years, is that he was an 8/10 in all areas of his game, but maybe struggled to reach the 9/10 or 10/10 which would have made him of the elite midfielders in the league.

Despite that, he was still a supremely talented player, and it is fantastic to now see one of the Premier League's most under-appreciated players earning the plaudits he so richly deserves.

In particular, a large section of Villa fans have paid homage to a man who has played more Premier League games for the club than any other player.

Barry in some ways soured his relationship with the those in the Holte End in his final years at Villa Park, by appearing to try and force a move away from the Midlands club.

At the time, some Villa fans felt aggrieved that Barry had chosen to move to Manchester City, a club who had only finished four places below Villa in the previous season. Critics also unfairly claimed he had only moved to the City for the money.

Yet, Barry's Premier League and FA Cup winner's medals will prove to be all the justification that he needed.

In recent years the 36-year-old has been linked with a move back to the club he represented for over a decade, and it would certainly be a suitable and poignant ending to a remarkable career, if he were to once again don the famous claret and blue shirt.