Gareth Barry was a precocious young 19 year-old with a great left foot, when he made his England debut as a substitute against the Ukraine in May, 2000. At that time it looked like Gareth was going to be an England regular for years to come.
But once Sven Eriksson took over the England manager job in 2001 that all came to an end.
For whatever reason, Sven didn’t rate young Barry and slowly but surely he was left out of the England squads completely. He continued to play well for his club Aston Villa, whom he joined from Brighton in 1997 when a 16 year-old. From 1998-2002 Gareth played 27 times for the England Under-21 side but it is only very recently that he has been recalled to the England squad.
Thanks really to new manager Martin O’Neil and the good sense of Steve McClaren that Barry has made a return to the England squad. In the last international break Barry at last got a chance to start in central midfield with Steven Gerrard in England’s vital games with Israel and Russia. England’s regular midfielder Lampard was out injured.
During the game with Israel Barry immediately built a rapport with Gerrard on the field and the players actually complemented each other’s play. What a concept! The continual pairing of Lampard and Gerrard had never really been a success for England but because they are undoubtedly the best two English midfielders they always seemed to get the nod. The problem — they are far too similar in style. Great club players no doubt but not good together for England.
After England’s two excellent victories against Israel and Russia at Wembley in which Barry was little short of a revelation, Steve McClaren, to his credit, kept faith in Barry when Lampard returned from injury for Saturday’s game with Estonia. It was an easy victory but remember that Estonia is ranked 127th in the world and anything other than a win for England would have been a massive upset.
But it will be a completely different game for England (ranked 9th) when they have to face Russia in Russia on Wednesday. This is the real test for England and we expect to see Barry and Gerrard again as the starters in central midfield. But we do expect another win, even though the match is being played on a plastic pitch, with all it’s uncertainties. A win will guarantee England qualification for next years’ finals.
We hope McClaren will keep faith in this midfield partnership, which really works. Maybe we can actually think about winning something next year if we select the best team for England rather than the best 11 players available. What a concept!