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Villanous Metamorphoses


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Gareth Barry is just one of very few Villans who've changed direction and succeeded.

Gareth Barry: Midfielder extraordinary. Why extraordinary? – Because he does his job simply and assuredly and makes the game look simple – which is what the game should be about in my opinion, and has oft been said for eons.

But for those who think his simplicity in fact makes him an inferior player, let them observe the sweet 180-degree turns to avoid opponents before planting the ball to the feet of someone better placed.

I’ve already seen the phrase ‘pinging passes’ used by journalists to describe his passing. And doesn’t he do it well, whether short or long passes? Rarely does a pass go astray, and virtually all his passes are perfectly delivered. But, of course, there’s another dimension to his play: his defensive qualities. How often do we see him tracking back to cover the defenders, a job well-learnt from his days as a central-defender and left-back. And, again, doing that job well.

There’s an extraordinarily under-stated aspect of his development into his role of midfield general; he made the transition from being a forgotten England left-back. How many players can we think of that have made that extraordinary move from defender into midfielder at the international level? I have thought of just one – Jimmy Crabtree. And, of course, the amazing thing is that he also was a star Villa player, and I understand that even until the Second World War his name was still on people’s lips as the greatest-ever all-round player. When he came to the Villa from Burnley in those far-off 1890’s days, he had only played at full-back, but Villa were then well-endowed with full-backs, and they moved him to the half-back line, at wing-half. And there he seamlessly resumed his international status, though he subsequently flittered between defence and midfield. He, like Barry, also occasionally played in the forward line.

Barry’s move from defence to midfield with England was not quite as easy as Crabtree’s, but that is undoubtedly because Barry has had his trials under different managers, and was frequently switched around, until the arrival of Martin O’Neill. Though Barry has still had to deputise at left-back at club level, he has been made club skipper and his main job has been established in midfield. Hence his triumphant re-entry into the England team.

There’s at least one other former Villa player that went through a successful metamorphosis – one Gareth Southgate. An extraordinary move by Brian Little to convert him to central defence from midfield made him Villa’s most capped England player, though he did not play for England as a midfielder.

So there we are – it just proves that there’s life after metamorphosis! I must try it!

Up the Villa!

John Lerwill

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One thing that your article doesn't mention John, interesting though it is. When we bought Gareth Barry from Brighton, he was ....a central midfielder. It could be argued that he's been messed around far too often and has just finally been put back in his natural position. I know he first featured for England as a left back and if memory serves me correct he'd never played there at a pro level before he made his debut (which is also rather strange but that was Kevin Keegan for you)

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When he played out wide for DOL I always argued, (probably too much!) that he should be moved inside. I never really thought his talents suited to the wing. I'm glad to see him now floureshing in his best position, although even I am surprised at how well he passed the ball about for England. He did extremely well as a kind of defensive link man, playing it simple and always having a picture in his head. The true test however, will come when he faces teams who don't just sit back and allow him time to pick out passes.

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He's excelling in central midfield. When he made the England team under keggy, he was playing superbly in a back 3 for Villa. He was in a back 3, partly as a result of dropping back there in his second game, when Ugo got sent of against Arsenal.

In that back 3 position, he again was relatively central, had the game in front of him and he was able to bring the ball forwards into midfield and use it well.

The telly keep saying he is a "holding midfielder" - he isn't, and he isn't playing as such either for England or Villa.

As you say, he's doing well because he makes the game look simple, does the simple things very well and his passing and reading of the game is outstanding.

He's also confident.

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There’s at least one other former Villa player that went through a successful metamorphosis – one Gareth Southgate. An extraordinary move by Brian Little to convert him to central defence from midfield made him Villa’s most capped England player, though he did not play for England as a midfielder.

Didn't he play in midfield (very poorly) for England in the last game at Wembley when England lost to Germany?

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There’s at least one other former Villa player that went through a successful metamorphosis – one Gareth Southgate. An extraordinary move by Brian Little to convert him to central defence from midfield made him Villa’s most capped England player, though he did not play for England as a midfielder.

Didn't he play in midfield (very poorly) for England in the last game at Wembley when England lost to Germany?

He did, you're right.

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nice spam but good Article

I think the captaincy had a lot to do with this.

at previous stages other managers at times have 'slagged' off Barry and MON's appointment of Barry as captain meant he was central to his plans and this has given him confidence to know he is wanted and we have see him grow from there

I have been calling for Barry to be in the England team on the left for years (miles better than the show pony cole) but I am glad at last he has proved himself something we knew he could do

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.... He is doing a great job for England....He has always been tops for Villa and England fans are now just learning about him.

His inter play with Gerrard is superb and they cover and go for each other, something that doesn't happen with Lampard.

He has given the England team a whole new lease of life in terms of balance..... a thoroughly good lad who deserves all the success he gets.

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While we are heaping all the much deserved praise on Barry let it not be forgotten that what makes Barry's job for England a lot easier is that he is playing well alongside his friend Gerrard, who as we all know is a very gifted ball player.

As long as these two play well together McClaren's job as manager is going to be considerably easier because I haven't seen Gerrard play as well for England as he does alongside Barry. Since Lampard has been having problems with his game of late I cannot see him starting ahead of Barry.

Now here is a question to be posed for MON. Should we not dig into the purse strings and make a very sizeable offer to bring Gerrad to Villa Park ? If we are to become the epitome of a young English Lion's team why not bring in the other key player to complete the jig saw puzzle? IMO such a move would cement Villa as a leading contender for a few years to come and such an investment would pay deep dividends for Aston Villa .

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...Now here is a question to be posed for MON. Should we not dig into the purse strings and make a very sizeable offer to bring Gerrad to Villa Park ? If we are to become the epitome of a young English Lion's team why not bring in the other key player to complete the jig saw puzzle? IMO such a move would cement Villa as a leading contender for a few years to come and such an investment would pay deep dividends for Aston Villa .

D'yer know, that's just what I'd been thinking lately...!

It's just the sort of ambition Villa should have - and judging how Liverpool still don't seem to be able to stamp their mark after a good start to the season, he might just feel that time is running out at the Pool...

...and he wants to play next to his mate, doesn't he?!

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Made his first team debut at Sheffield Wed in central midfield,

i was there that day, and you could tell then he was class.

but slow

There is always that which will be thrown against him

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Made his first team debut at Sheffield Wed in central midfield,

i was there that day, and you could tell then he was class.

but slow

There is always that which will be thrown against him

i think he's quicker than he looks, in a chrissy waddle type of way.

not having blistering did not really hamper Sheringham or a class act like Bobby Moore either.

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Made his first team debut at Sheffield Wed in central midfield,

i was there that day, and you could tell then he was class.

but slow

There is always that which will be thrown against him

i think he's quicker than he looks, in a chrissy waddle type of way.

not having blistering did not really hamper Sheringham or a class act like Bobby Moore either.

Thing is watching GB, he has always had the 'pace' for International football as it does seem to be played at a much slower pace than the Prem. Watching / listening at the weekend it is obvious that England's style suits him more than the high paced pressure game MO'N prefers too as he was always with play, something that we haven't seen over the last couple of Villa games with our desire to get it forward so quickly.

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....Now if I was a betting man, I would say the chances of Barry going to Liverpool were far greater than Gerrard coming to us..... But there again nice try.

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John here are another three who made changes in their playing roles when with us:

From the 82 team we had Kenny Swain who moved from wing to full back and Allan Evans who started as a forward before moving back to central defence. An earlier example was Con Martin who started as a centre half and then played 27 games in 51/52 as a goalkeeper before returning to play as a full back or centre half.

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John - your points are very valid, except that Kenny Swain didn't play at the international level - did he?.

Allan Evans is certainly more relevant (I remembered him after!), but Con Martin is the best! Yes, you're absolutely right. I tend to forget him, but he did play in goal and outfield for his country - a most extraordinary combination.

Well spotted, John!

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