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Barry: Something Changed


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By Gary Baldy

"I could have gone to see a film instead.

You might have changed your mind and seen your friends.

Life could have been very different but then,

something changed."

This time last month I was adamant that I wouldn’t be renewing my season ticket. I’ve had times before when I wasn’t sure about renewing but this time it was definite. I’ve had the ticket for a fairly long time now – eleven years – which obviously will be wiped out of the sky by the length that some of you reading have had yours – but this was the first time that I had decided enough was enough. The lack of action during January when we were in a position of strength was incredibly frustrating – it seemed to mirror the situation when previous chairman and managers have done exactly the same thing – yet this time we’d convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t happen.

Still, it’s happened before and dare I say it – it’ll happen again. The final straw for me was then, after failing to strengthen the squad – O’Neill then threw away the participation in the UEFA Cup because the squad was apparently too small. A nice little meal given towards those who flew out to Moscow may have placated a number of dissenting voices, but of those unhappy that they’d bought tickets way back when the season began for the frigging Intertoto Cup, who had been encouraged to buy the tickets to cheer on the team into the UEFA Cup, and then subsequently gone on the go to the game against the Icelandic team with the un-typeable name and bought the combo-tickets for the group games, along with the ‘special edition’ programmes that we all must rush out and buy – sorry, I got lost in the moment – for those of us that did this – not a word.

Well, there were a few words. After the game O’Neill told us that “Circumstances forced me into making my decision, and whilst I am disappointed we were beaten, I will have to see what the rest of the season brings to see if that disappointment is worsened.”

Indeed. No mention of that since though. As each week went past and each loss meant another week without three points no longer was it “we can still make fourth” or “fifth is an improvement” in the post-match interviews. Instead, it became “We’re entertaining to watch, Villa fans appreciate that.”

Perhaps I’m just on my own. I much preferred viewing the Hull and Newcastle games than for example, the Everton and Middlesbrough games – because we actually won those.

It was that attitude that really got to me. If he’d have held his hands up and admitted that yes, he’d got the transfer window wrong – and yes – his decision to throw away the UEFA Cup could have been seen as a bit of a mistake despite any reasoning that might have made sense to do so (of which there obviously is some), then it’d have been easier to swallow. After a long season, I’d become as tired as how the players had apparently become.

After spending nearly £50million in the summer – an increase of a couple of points and no position difference – and with the defence looking shakier than when the majority of that money had been spent on it.

Yet a week ago, something changed. I wouldn’t say it became the polar opposite, and may be it was just because it was coming close to the end of 11 years worth of something that on the whole was fun. What would I actually do on the weekends anyway? I’d only end up watching it on TV or listening to it. Perhaps I could get the garden looking nice. But I hate gardening and have hayfever – so why do I want to do that. I’m a pretty sad fellow really. Sod it, I’ll renew.

So on Saturday, I did exactly that. And it seemed to reignite a bit of excitement. I began looking at the Newsnow feeds a bit more – looking to see who we might be signing without treating it with the usual sarcastic – “Well that isn’t true – he’s not English and anything other than average…..”

And it took two days for that enthusiasm to leave. Surely that’s got to be some kind of record?

Barry’s departure did not come as a shock to me – as I’m sure it didn’t to anyone here. I bought that ticket in full knowledge that with Laursen retiring and Barry leaving we’d be losing our best two players – and those who I have read complaining of the sale and talking about returning their ticket clearly forgot all about last summer.

I’m glad Barry has gone. Last summer was not only embarrassing for all parties involved, but an unwanted distraction and one which left a dark cloud over the club throughout the whole of the transfer window. The way he went to the newspapers and said the things that he did showed a complete lack of respect towards the club (which is bigger than any one player, including Barry) and it’s supporters. Amongst the bile that was spat out in the Sunday tabloids was:

"My mind's made up, I want to join Liverpool.

“There's no going back, it's time for me to move on. I'm desperate to play Champions League football and that's why I have to leave Villa.

He didn’t show much respect towards the Villa fans last year in his attempt to get away from Villa Park. He didn’t show much respect those 440 appearances in a Villa shirt when he decided to come out to the newspapers with that garbage – so that’s why I think those who are coming out trying to take the ‘higher morale ground’ stance against other Villa fans who are disappointed with Gareth’s decision to move should possibly be a bit more understanding of others – if Gareth himself didn’t gave up treating the club and it’s fans respect, then it’s hard to reciprocate that respect.

Barry’s decision disappointed me. As I said – I wanted him gone. With him in the middle I felt Villa suffered from having two midfielders in the same mould in the center – which was part of our downfall last season. It gives us a chance to reshape if O’Neill decides to buy (though I fear he’ll settle for ‘simple’ Sidwell given how he’s shown how slow he is to react after selling players before).

Gareth’s performances on the pitch were also suffering. He had a below average season for his standards last season – whether it was a mental thing, a lack of skill or just a deterioration in relationship with the management – he wasn’t providing enough on the pitch. He managed one goal from open play all year and missed many more opportunities which the old Barry would have scored from. It was just time to say goodbye.

To a rival of this club for the top positions – with no Europe whatsoever next year despite being ‘desperate to play Champions League football? That’s low, Gareth – and no amount of silly little letters sent to local newspapers (rather than something a little more fan conscious – such as the official website or fansites such as this one) will work in trying to placate the fans that you’ve left – even the way that the letter was done has made it seem like one propaganda event trying to maintain the ‘clean cut’ image rather than actually meaning a word of what is written.

Just with O’Neill, if Gareth had come out and admitted that he’d become stale at Villa, and whilst he wanted Champions League football, the ability to earn £100,000 was just as appealing then maybe there would have been a bit of a better reaction than what he has got so far.

Because whatever is written in that letter, I won’t believe a word of it.

Speaking of which – why haven’t we heard anything from our manager about this yet?

I think O’Neill will be relieved that Barry has gone. Not only because it means the saga is finally over and gives us a chance to reshape the team, but it’s another ‘name’ gone from the team. This isn’t meant to be me trying batter the manager (not just because I hate batter), but he isn’t a manager who likes ‘names’. He’s spent a great deal of money of players who aren’t universally thought of as ‘great’ players (I’m not complaining, I don’t care who is playing as long as we win) and the one ‘household name’ who was probably bigger than himself has now been moved out. Now Aston Villa can truly be known as ‘Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa’ and not ‘Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa – doesn’t Gareth Barry play for them?’.

And as long as it helps us grow and improve then that’s all that matters, really – and I think it will.

It’s all over to O’Neill now to improve the team and squad for next season – and hopefully get better value for money than he managed last year.

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Well written and well argued, mostly.

I take issue with O’Neill will be relieved that Barry has gone given that Randy, MO'N and GB have all very recently mentioned how much went into trying to keep GB at the club.

I think MO'N will be disappointed he's lost GB.

I also disagree about the letter being "silly". Sure it contains some football speak, but there's also, for me, the feeling of genuine openness - recognition that he messed up last summer, I'm sure his feelings for Villa are genuine - how could they not be? He had no need to write to the local papers to say what he said. He may well be conscious of future reaction, but he will also be truly appreciative of the support he has had, and to say thanks is no bad thing.

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Well written and well thought out :clap:

Unlike Blandy, I agree that MON is probably glad that Barry is gone. Towards the end of the season, we were figured out by the opposition and had no plan B. This as you say gives us a chance to reshape and add something different. I share the worry that MON may be thinking the Sidders/NRC are the answer. After all he would not like to admit that he has wasted £13m on that duo by buying another midfielder to push them further down the queue.

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Willy - I'm sure MO'N will be relieved it's all over, suspect he'll be smiling wryly at Liverpool losing out and accept that MO'N will also be looking forward to the opportunity to rebuild the side, but I do stick by my view that he didn't want GB to leave.

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Not sure what Villa team you watched last season but I saw one with only one truly class player...and he's just left for City

but football is all about opinions and in that regard it was a well written piece ..

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With him in the middle I felt Villa suffered from having two midfielders in the same mould in the center – which was part of our downfall last season.

With this, I could not agree more. In fact I made such a point in an article on this very site. While Gareth Barry is a fantastically gifted player, he's not a "complete" midfielder. Playing a withdrawn role in the national team differs from that required in the premier league, and quite frankly neither Barry or Petrov are strong enough either defensively or with the ground they cover. For all the flack that he gets, Nigel Reo Coker was missed big-style in that holding role.... No matter how good your centre-backs are, if you run at them enough you'll eventually get through - "every now and again even a blind squirrel finds a nut."

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A well written summing up of the situation at VP.

We will all have differing opinions about MON, Barry and a 1001 other things at B6 but what matters most now, is what will MON/Lerner be doing to build the squad, replace Barry and hopefully, obtain some quality this time.

I worry that MON is a slow starter in the transfer market and I see him attributed as saying he won't be rushed into replacing Barry. Fine, but what is he doing about identifying replacements? We seem to again being linked with the old favourites, Bentley, Huddlestone, Bent and maybe Martins. These would improve the squad, but the quality isn't going to be a great deal better (IMO).

I'm a fan of MON, but he does seem to be a little to "laid back" in regard to the transfer market. Barry raised the point of ambition at City, this seemed to me that he thought it was a lot less at VP and if this is the case, perhaps today's Mirror headline about Young might be a sign of some wider discontent about the future, and of course perhaps a chance to match Barry's new salary level.

There are more clubs with either new owners or owners who are making money available. While this is not a guaranteed route to success, it nevertheless makes Villa's task harder next season unless we match like with like. Lerner has said there's money available, it's down to MON to get the right players to keep our progress going.


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Not sure what Villa team you watched last season but I saw one with only one truly class player...and he's just left for City

but football is all about opinions and in that regard it was a well written piece ..

One could argue that both Martin laursen and John Carew are also "truly class players". One could also put in a great case for Asher in that regard too.

But yes, i agree Barry is a loss to us, and one that Martin will need to replace, i would guess/hope from outside the current playing staff ....

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