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Gareth Barry - 392 appearances: Eric Houghton


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by OutByeaster

Gareth Barry played his 392nd game for Aston Villa on Sunday against West Ham, leaving him perched precariously in joint 11th on the list of Villa's all time player appearances.

In the 120 years since Aston Villa invented league football, only 10 players have pulled on the Claret & Blue shirt more often than the 27 year old we've watched grow up between the Holte and North Stands.

Just 10 players in 120 years, think about that for a moment, it’s an incredible thing.

It’s not enough.

Gareth’s future remains firmly in the balance with the smart money appearing to be edging towards the exit, but who knows, if Messrs Lerner and O’Neill can work their magic this week, perhaps we could still see him take the place that’s been saved for him in the hearts, minds and record books of this football club.

If not, then I hope we’ll treat him kindly when he next visits. Ultimately though, all we can do is sit and wait and hope, snarl at Benitez and cross our fingers.

392 appearances is a total that won’t be challenged for a long time yet, and indeed it’s something of a surprise to find that the nearest we have is Gabriel Agbonlahor who whilst he has time on his side has a long way to go from his current total of 91.

It puts Gareth level with another of those men that we just don’t celebrate enough, the incredible Eric Houghton.

Eric Houghton

Born on the 19th of June 1910, William Eric Houghton was to become the most famous son of Billingborough, Lincolnshire.

After beginning his career at Boston Town, he soon moved to Villa as an amateur in 1927, before signing as a professional for the princely sum of £3 a week.

Quick and two-footed, Eric played as an outside left (although he could also play on the right) from where his pace and excellent control of the ball would serve him well.

His chief weapon though was a shot like a missile.

Eric could hit the big old heavy leather ball like today’s footballers hit the modern ball. It was recorded that he broke through the net on two separate occasions with goals and that keepers would think twice before throwing a hand at his better efforts.

A quiet man off the field, he was never booked or sent off.

He was an excellent penalty taker, scoring 58 in his time at the club and rarely missing, but his favourite goal was a forty-yard screamer away at Derby. (I couldn’t find it on youtube, but there was one very similar from more recently)

In total, Eric scored 170 goals in his 392 appearances for Villa in a team that scored an amazing 514 goals in the five seasons between 1928 and 1933.

More amazing still given those scoring feats was that his only real honour with Villa as a player was as part of the team promoted from the second division as Champions in 1938.

The goalscoring didn’t stop there and in 7 appearances for England he scored 5 goals. In those seven games, England scored 28.

He’s also responsible for one of the proudest moments for a Villa side abroad, as one of the instigators of the moment when the Lion of Aston Villa poked the Nazi war machine firmly in the eye.

You’ll do well to find a quote from a Villa player better than this one from Eric:

"They said we'd got to give the Nazi salute, you see, so we went to the centre of the field and gave them the two finger salute and they cheered like mad. They thought it was all right. They didn't know what the two fingers meant."

Eric played for Villa’s wartime eleven throughout the war and left the club soon after to join Notts County.

His Villa story was not to end there though.

He became manager of County in 1948 and successfully guided them to the third division championship in 1950 before returning to Villa Park as manager in 1953.

Those were difficult times for a Villa team that was in far from the best of health, but somehow, from within the depths of the clubs trouble of the time Eric produced one of its finest hours.

In 1957 Eric Houghton took his Villa team to Wembley and led them to victory against Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

It was to be his finest hour as manager and he was unceremoniously sacked after refusing to resign just over a year later following a string of poor results.

His love for the club remained undimmed however, and he was to return as a scout and coach in 1970 before becoming a director in 1970 then Club President until his death in 1986 finally ended a relationship begun some 59 years earlier.

A true giant of Villa’s history as both player and manager he also managed to Captain Warwickshire’s second eleven on the cricket field and played in seven first class games for the county.

Occasionally on the message boards at Villatalk a debate goes up as to what constitutes a legend. I doubt many would argue with the name of Eric Houghton.

As for Gareth, he’s not quite there yet. He’s come a long long way and laid the groundwork for achievements that are really worth celebration. It would be a shame to throw it away now, but the choice remains his.

I hope to be back here in October, celebrating Gareth’s 400th appearance and his entry into the top ten, and in a couple of seasons his rise to fourth, but it seems more than possible that 392 might be his final tally.

If so, we should remember him fondly, he has earned a spot as a player to be respected in the rich history of Aston Villa but I for one will be left lamenting what could have been.

To finish, please accept my apology for being a little late in recording this one, I’ve been distracted by real life’s insistence on trying to force its way into the cracks left by the end of the football season.

Like Gareth Barry’s future, some things are beyond our control.

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That's some piece of work Scott. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

An addition to that. Aswell as Houghton being 11th all time in appearances he is 5th all-time in scoring for Villa. His 170 goals are bettered only by Billy Walker (244), Harry Hampton (242), John Devey (186/7?) and Joe Bache (184/5?) and he has 3 more than a certain Tom 'Pongo' Waring! A true legend indeed.

Come on Barry, you know what you need to do !

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Scott, excellent read mate. Thanks.

As for Gareth its puts into perspective that if he goes we are unlikely to see anyone get anywhere near making the amount of appearances he has again for a very long time.

I saw him make hes first appearance, I hope I didn't miss him make hes 392nd and last on Sunday.

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Eric Houghton, now there is someone who can challenge the likes of Billy Walker as greatest Villan of them all.

Lets hope Barry surpasses them both in terms of appearances, if he passes them in the list of greatest Villans then we are gonna have some fun over the coming years!

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Lets hope Gareth makes it into the top 10!

Eric was a real 110% Villa man and made a terrific contribution to the club both on and off the field. I also have a history of football DVD that included him blasting one in from distance at Highbury in the 30s.

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  • 1 month later...

I went to school in Billingborough and i remember my mate saying something along the lines of "i remember my Nan saying someone brought the F.A. Cup over to the village because she knew someone". Must have been Eric who he meant. Amazing.

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