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Gareth Barry 350 & Counting


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By OutBy Easter?

This week Gareth will play his 350th game for Villa, and I think it would be remiss of us to let that achievement pass without mention. He’s 18th on the list of Villa’ all time appearances, and he’s in exceptionally good company.

Early in 2006, a claret and blue magazine plopped onto my hall carpet and, as I innocently tore off it’s cellophane wrapper how was I to know the strange effect it would have on my life?

It featured an article on Villa’s two most established first team players. Players who had just reached an important milestone; they’d played in their 300th games for the club.

Since then, one of them; Gareth Barry has signed a new four year contract, become our Captain, been voted our Player of the Season, made it back into the England squad and shown week in and week out why he’s so highly thought of at Villa Park.

The other one’s gone to Stoke.

He was signed by John Gregory in August of 1997, and made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday on the 2nd May 1998. He was 19 when he put away his penalty at the old Wembley in the FA Cup semi final. He’s 26 now.

The article featured a list of every Villa player that had ever reached 300 appearances, and I think it’s fair to say it fascinated me. The names were like dreams, some familiar, some the stuff of legends, but amongst them there were a number I’d never heard of. Oh, the shame!

By the end of last season, Gareth had started to overtake them, and as 2005-2006 closed, he’d already played more games than; Brian Little, Gary Williams, Ugo Ehiogu, John Devey, Nigel Sims and Charlie Athersmith.

With Gareth lying 27th on Villa’s all-time list of appearances going into this season, I didn’t know anything about a number of the players he was about to overtake, and these men are some of this club’s finest servants.

I resolved to find out more about them, and I’ve found the stories of some incredible players.

Some of you will know those from the recent (and not so recent) past much better than I do, and I’d very much appreciate it of those of you that do would take the time to add your recollections (and corrections) to my ramblings. Amongst these players are the clubs legends, and I don’t think we should let them drift into obscurity.

We have in our team at the moment a young man who has a very real chance of becoming a legend at this club, and a good chance of featuring very highly indeed in this list. With luck and the Villa faithful on his side, he’ll have overtaken another group of players by the end of next season; maybe this is a theme we can re-visit then?

So, here are the stories of the players that Gareth has passed this season (and one that he will have passed by the end of the season.) on his way to becoming 17th on Villa’s all-time appearance list:

Frank Moss Jnr 1938-1955 Played: 314 games

What a great place to start. Born and bred in Aston, Frank Moss Jnr made his debut for Villa on the 5th September 1938, but didn’t celebrate his first win in a Villa shirt for more than eight years!

Like his father’s before him, Frank’s Villa career was rudely interrupted by those pesky Germans – (Frank Moss Snr had represented Villa with distinction and his country both as a player and soldier. A measure of the toughness of the family is that Frank Snr was severely wounded in the knee during the first world war, but after a couple of years away resumed playing for us) – Frank Jnr was a big strong centre half in times when centre halves were big and strong, he scored three goals in those 314 appearances and was unfortunate to have played during a difficult time for Villa, with major honours escaping him. His career was brought to an end by a Duncan Edwards tackle in 1955.

I believe he ran a newsagent’s in Aldridge after he retired from the game.

An England and Villa Captain’s son whose career was interrupted by Hitler and ended by a Busby babe; Not many people can say that I’d imagine.

Mick Wright 1963-1973 Played: 315 games

Everywhere I looked for descriptions of Mick Wright, I found the word dependable.

I guess it’s fair then to describe Mick as a dependable defender. He made his debut in September 1963 against Blackpool and served the club well for a decade until injury ended his career.

Relegated twice, he missed out on the league cup final of 1971, his only medal coming as part of the third division Championship winning side of 1972.

He scored only once in those 315 appearances (as far as I can tell) in 1966 against Man City.

He played in three divisions for us and saw the re-birth of Villa under Doug and the Doc in 1968. If anyone knows where he is, I’m sure he’s got a tale or two to tell.

Paul McGrath 1989-1996 Played: 323 games

323 games, and every one of them a minor medical miracle!

I’m not going to try to describe Paul McGrath’s football, I’m sure that most of you will have seen him play.

If you didn’t you missed one of the greatest players ever to pull on a Villa shirt, and the man that no less a judge than Franco Baresi described as the best defender he’d ever seen.

At Villa he’s known simply as God, in Ireland he’s appeared on a stamp, and in my local if you mention his name out loud, it is required that you follow it with a toast.

It’s astonishing that he played this many games given the condition of his knees, his liver and his mind during the years he was with us. He remains an extraordinary player and an extraordinary man.

Signed by Graham Taylor from Manchester United for £425,000 we had to break the wage structure to capture McGrath, paying him the princely sum of £3,000 a week. Never has money been so wisely spent.

The PFA player of the year for 1993, he was a member of teams that finished as league runners up in 1989-90 and 1992-93, a league cup winner in 1994 and again in 1996, and the best player I’ve ever seen.

Irish author Eamon Dunphy wrote, "Paul McGrath testified to the qualities of courage and intelligence and with that are the essence of greatness in any man.”

He was right.

Stan Lynn 1950-1962 Played: 324 games

Stan “The Wham” Lynn was a tough tackling no nonsense full back with a thunderous shot and a steely nerve that made him one of the great penalty specialists of all time.

He worked part time in the cotton industry whilst playing for Accrington Stanley, before joining Villa for £10,000 in March of 1950 after a move to Newcastle had fallen through.

Stan scored 38 goals for Villa in his 324 games, becoming widely regarded as the best uncapped right back in England. The majority of those came from the penalty spot, including two in a hat trick against Sunderland in January of 1957 that ultimately kept us up that season.

He scored one in a 2-1 win over Stoke that secured the Second Division Championship of 1960, and one in the league cup semi-final against Burnley in 1961, but missed out on playing in a final that we won 3-0.

He was also a part of the 1957 FA Cup winning team, but finished his career on an unseemly note; joining Small Heath for £150,000 in 1961 and disgracing himself by playing for them against us in the league cup final of 1963.

He worked in the old Lucas Factory in Birmingham after he retired in 1968.

Stan the wham passed away in 2002.

Alan Wright 1995-2003 Played: 329 games

You know, even though I’m five foot eight, I’ve always had some sympathy for the little man who fights his way to the top, and I loved Alan Wright.

When he played under Gregory, our diminutive left wing back seemed to be on an invisible piece of string that only stretched to the half way line. Then every now and then, just when you least expected it, he’d produce a moment like his thirty-yard screamer against Tottenham.

I remember Duncan Ferguson patting him fondly on the head, unable to believe that he’d been beaten in the air by a man who wasn’t allowed on all the rides at Alton Towers.

Signed for us in March of 1995 for £1,000,000, he settled in almost immediately and was part of the team that won the league cup in 1996.

At one point he’d missed only one Premiership game in four seasons. A record made all the more impressive by the odd fact that he only missed that game because driving his Ferrari was hurting his knee. A Rover 416 solved that, and Villa without Alan Wright in the nineties just wouldn’t have been right.

It didn’t save him from a whole lot of criticism from the terraces though much of it undeserved. It’s taken us years to replace him.

Four attempts at the UEFA cup and an FA Cup final brought no further silverware, and Alan moved to Middlesbrough in 2003.

He’s still playing today, and can currently be found on loan at Nottingham Forest.

Peter McParland 1952- 1962 Played: 341 games

What a player; a goalscoring winger, the scorer of cup winning goals, and a man who can justly lay claim to the title of legend.

Quick, built like a tank and with the ability to score with either foot, McParland was spotted by then Villa manager George Martin while playing for Newry in Northern Ireland and brought back to Villa Park at the tender age of 18.

He stayed for a decade, scoring 120 goals in his 341 games.

The most important of them were against Sir Matt Busby’s babes at Wembley in the 1957 cup final. Six minutes into the final, he floored the United keeper in an accidental collision and broke his jaw, with no substitutes in those days, United were forced to put a defender between the sticks. It took nearly an hour for McParland’s first goal, a header, and he finished United off shortly afterwards.

It had been his tournament, he’d already scored five in that seasons FA cup, including two in the semi-final against Albion, and winning the FA cup was a feat we hadn’t managed in the 37 years before his goals. (Or the 50 after.)

He also managed to score the winner in the 1961 league cup final for good measure, and also took in a second division championship medal during his time at Villa Park.

If that wasn’t enough, he managed to help Northern Ireland into the last eight of the World Cup in 1958, scoring against Argentina, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

He moved to Wolves in 1962 before moving on to Plymouth Argyle, and went on to play and coach in America and in Europe, including a spell as manager of Cyprus.

I’m not sure if he’s related to TV’s Ant McParland. I’d imagine not.

Harry Parkes 1945- 1955 Played: 345 games

Harry actually joined us just before the start of World War Two, but didn’t make his official debut until 1945; the Erdington born man could play anywhere, but mostly played fullback.

He made up for his missed years by only missing 11 games in the next seven seasons.

Sadly, his time at Villa Park brought him no honours, and he scored just four times in his 345 games, but he was a firm favourite of the Villa faithful.

His name is synonymous for men of my age with the magic of his sports shop in Corporation Street, a sort of Aladdin’s cave of sporting goods in a world before Nike and Adidas made trainers something you could wear without training. Sadly it succumbed to the branded world of the global brand in the mid-nineties and closed down. I think it’s now a Christian bookshop.

Harry was briefly on the board in the 1970’s, but I’m unsure of his contribution to the club during that time, if anyone knows, please tell.

Charlie Wallace 1907-1921 Played: 350 games

It’s hard to find out much about Charlie Wallace, a player who made his debut for Villa 100 years ago.

What I can tell you is that he was the first player to miss a penalty in an FA Cup Final, against Sunderland in 1913, in front of 120,000 people at the Crystal Palace.

We won that one though, and Charlie won a league championship and two FA Cup Winners medals, as well as finishing as a league runner up on no fewer than four occasions.

He scored 57 goals in his 350 games before joining Oldham in 1921.

He was back in 1923 though; as a steward, a position he held until 1960.

“Stand up if you hate stewards”? I think not.

Steve Staunton 1991-2003 Played: 350 games

Stan as he was affectionately known was a bit of an oddity. A genuine two-club man who didn’t seem able to decide if he preferred Villa Park or Anfield. In many ways, that makes his 350 appearances all the more impressive.

He joined us from Liverpool in 1991 and left them with a problem at left back that they didn’t solve until 1998. £1,000,000 got us a player that could play in midfield or in central defence, but whose best position was left back. He scored 15 goals in his 350 appearances, many of them spectacular strikes with his potent left foot.

He took an excellent corner, often whipping in balls to the near post that the keeper would need to be careful not to let in. I don’t personally recall him scoring from a corner for Villa, but I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he had.

He scored on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday, and won two league cup winners medals in his first stint at Villa Park, the second of those as an unused substitute.

Then in 1998 he surprised us by nipping back to Anfield on a bosman. He didn’t have the best of times though, and was sent back in 2000.

He played two more seasons, and was part of the Stan and Ollie centre-back partnership that got us out of more than one fine mess.

During that second spell, he became the Republic of Irelands record cap holder with 102; he’s also the only player who has played in every one of Irelands 13 World Cup Finals games.

He left us for Coventry in 2003, before becoming manager of first Walsall and then the Republic of Ireland, a position he still holds despite considerable pressure from the Irish press, fans and the odd gun-toting maniac.

Now, as promised, (and finally) the only player I’ll mention that Gareth hasn’t yet played more games than.

Vic Crowe 1954-1964 Played: 351 games

I can’t find much information on Vic’s playing career unfortunately. I know that he was right sided and missed the 1957 Cup Final with an injury. His family moved from Wales to Handsworth when he was just two, and he represented Wales 16 times during his career.

He signed for us in 1954, and made his debut against Manchester City in a 4-2 victory in the same year.

As a player, he won the Second Division Championship in 1959-1960, a League Cup winners medal in 1961 and was a League Cup runner up in 1963.

He left in 1964 to Peterborough, and then became assistant manager of Atlanta in the USA. He left the US to become manager of Aston Villa in 1970.

Under his stewardship, we were relegated at the end of the 1969-1970 season but made the League Cup final the next year. We were Champions of division three in 1971-1972 and almost achieved successive promotions the following year. He couldn’t make that final step though and was replaced by Ron Saunders in 1973.

He had a successful spell as manager of Portland back in the USA, starting in 1974 and worked for a time in non-league football in this country.

So there you have it, some fine names, and Gareth has now made more appearances for Villa than any of them.

I’m saddened that for the most part the information I have on these players is mostly just numbers and hope that some of you can add some meat onto these bare bones.

My apologies for any errors, and I’m sure there are plenty: I look forward to being corrected.

But mostly I look forward to watching Gareth continue to work his way through the list of our all-time appearance holders. Cherish him, because one day soon we might find he’s carved himself a very special place in the history of our great club.

Well-done Gareth on reaching your 350th appearance; Here’s to the next 350!

And just for the record, here’s who’s still in front of him:

Charlie Aitken 1960-76 660 games

Gordon Cowans 1976-94 531 games

Billy Walker 1919-33 527 games

Joe Bache 1900-15 474 games

Allen Evans 1977-89 474 games

Nigel Spink 1979-96 460 games

Tommy Smart 1919-33 452 games

Johnny Dixon 1945-61 430 games

Dennis Mortimer 1975-85 406 games

Billy George 1897-11 401 games

Eric Houghton 1929-47 392 games

Arthur Dorrell 1919-30 390 games

Harry Hampton 1904-20 390 games

Tommy Mort 1921-35 368 games

James Cowan 1889-02 356 games

Gareth Barry 1997-present 350 games

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great article OBE, worth of John Lewrill !!!

look at the names Barry will inevitably pass in the next 2 seasons and if he stays at the club for another 4 years (that makes him only 30 !!) then he could be on for the all time record, as long as he does not want to play for England !!!

I saw his first two games as a teenager, Everton and Sheff Wed as sub, he came onn and the first touch and pass we knew we had something special, he has not let us down. Despite a rocky patch a few years ago (hanging around with hendrie does you o good) he has matured into a fine leader and player acknowledged by the fact every manager in that period has considered him a first teamer !

Many years to come, in this exciting times and if the partnership with Petrov and the new midfielder can blossom maybe even the dougnuts in charge of england will have to recognise him

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Great post!

Love the listings and the descriptions. I remember a couple of those players from the time I lived in the UK, and was lucky enough to get to VP regularly. Were definately some great players there, and GB deserves to be in that list thew way he commands the ball.

I noticed he gets a lot less yellow cards nowadays too.

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Re Vic Crowe

His family moved from Wales to Handsworth when he was just two, and he represented Wales 16 times during his career.
In fact I don't think his family had been in Wales very long when Vic was born. His dad was a footballer and happened to play for Merthyr Town for a while, which is how Vic was Welsh.

No Pelle, I'm not his dad.

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One word - 'Wow'. That was a brilliant piece Scott. Well researched and the best article I've read on here for a long time. Worthy of a wider audience I'd say ! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it, thanks very much.

Just FYI, Stan cost us £1.1m first time around

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Excellent piece Scott, nice work

By the way another point on Staunton, did you know BFR actually phoned up Sourness to enquire about the availablity of David Burrows (who was English) and Souness said he wasn't interested in selling him but he could have Staunton because he was Irish and the three foriegner rule had either just come in or was about to the next season. Apparently BFR couldn't believe his luck as he phoned up about Burows (who wasn't that great but was out of the team and he got Stan who was that great and in the team for a similar price as he was prepared to pay for Burrows

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Nice post. Was he not signed the day Brian Little left? It's one of those factlets that seems stuck in my mind - but either way time flies.

Strangely soccerbase has him signing on 1/8/97 but Michael Standing signing 1/8/98!

Which as they came together doesn't really help.

The other thing that is oft forgotten is that Gareth is no home grown product and cost us £550,000. Which at the time seemed quite pricey but now seems like a real bargain.

Transer Fee Report

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I remember Duncan Ferguson patting him fondly on the head, unable to believe that he’d been beaten in the air by a man who wasn’t allowed on all the rides at Alton Towers.

Top writing!

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great article OBE, worth of John Lewrill !!!

:)

Yes, I have to agree that it was very good article.

Charlie Wallace, btw, played for two claret and blue sides before he joined Villa. He signed from Crystal Palace (who were c & b until Malcolm Allison changed it in the early 70s or 60s), and his junior league club before that also played in c & b.

Wallace was an extremely fine winger, and gained a further England cap after WW1 when many of his age were on the verge of finishing their careers.

Frank Moss jnr (happens to be my second cousin, but his family and mine never met!) was said by Tommy Lawton to be the hardest c-h to beat that he ever faced. His dad was a greater player - as will show up in my Villa Chronicles.

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