Gareth Barry sits down with Ian Taylor ahead of Premier League appearance record
Last Updated: 26/09/17 12:12am
With Gareth Barry on the brink of breaking the all-time Premier League appearance record, his former Aston Villa team-mate Ian Taylor caught up with him to reflect on a career he insists is a long way from ending.
The first senior appearance of Barry's record-breaking career came in an Aston Villa victory at Sheffield Wednesday on May 2, 1998.
The fresh-faced 17-year-old came on as a second-half substitute, replacing Villa midfielder Taylor in the 3-1 win at Hillsborough.
Barry has gone on to win the Premier League, FA Cup and 53 England caps, and is now just a game away from overtaking Ryan Giggs' top-flight appearance tally.
Ahead of the potentially historic appearance in West Brom's Monday Night Football clash at Arsenal, we've got a full transcript of when Taylor met Barry...
TAYLOR: Gareth, presuming you've picked yourself for the weekend… 633 appearances.
BARRY: If I'm honest, I remember my debut really well. I came on for the young boy Ian Taylor at the time! I remember it well because it's still the most nervous I've ever been. The body wasn't really ready, I was running around on adrenaline for 35, 40 minutes. The rest has gone so quickly, some fantastic moments in between, and to finally reach that landmark and go top of the list of all players in the Premier League, it's going to be a brilliant moment when I do it.
TAYLOR: I remember before you made your debut you were training with us most of the time, and you broke through. What was it like coming into that environment?
BARRY: It was really tough, because to make that step from leaving school, where you're joking around all the time, to coming into that training every day in that environment; for things to go that quickly. To be thrust up from the youth team, to bypass the reserves, and into that dressing room with some huge names in the English game; yourself, Stan Collymore, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, so many big personalities, so for me to be thrown in as a young, shy teenager, and as you know I was really quiet back then! It was a really big learning curve, and one where I adapted with the younger players like Lee Hendrie, he helped so much back then to get me involved in the dressing room banter.
TAYLOR: You started as a centre-back, and then moved into midfield…
BARRY: I was always a midfielder at school, and when the coach said he saw me as a centre back I was a bit gutted. I thought: 'I'm not a defender, I want to get forward and score goals!' I ended up really enjoying playing the more defensive role, alongside Gareth and Alan Wright, I had so much experience around me, and it was perfect to come into that team.
TAYLOR: What are your memories of playing under John Gregory, because we had some great times there...
BARRY: When I first broke in, my first full season, we were top at Christmas. I thought: 'This Premier League lark is easy!' Winning all the time, playing with great players, but towards the end of that season we really found how tough the Premier League can be. Every game is a battle, and we eventually finished sixth. To be in that dressing room was fantastic for my learning.
TAYLOR: In 2009 you went to Manchester City, how did you find that?
BARRY: It was a really tough decision, and the speculation towards the end of that 2007/08 season when I nearly joined Liverpool, that was the most uncomfortable and the part of my career I didn't enjoy. I wasn't sure what was happening, wasn't sure what decision to make, and looking back now it's a learning curve, but one I found tough at the time. I'd been at Villa so long and didn't really understand what happened with transfers and speculation.
I’m going to play as long as possible and I’ll hang my boots up when I stopped enjoying it and question what I’m doing on my way into training, or if I’m big enough to hold my hands up and admit I’m not at the level I want to be.
I got my head down and stayed another year at Villa, and probably played my best football under Martin O'Neill. To be fair to Martin and Aston Villa, they promised me if I got my head down and worked I could leave the club the next summer and challenge. In the end I chose Manchester City, and in hindsight now it was a fantastic move, I had four great years there.
TAYLOR: You left for £12m in the end, which now doesn't seem like a lot, but did that weigh heavy on you at the time? How did it feel?
BARRY: It did, because the season before Villa were rejecting bids from Liverpool for around £16m, £18m, and I was thinking at the time that I'd had 11 great years here and was ready for a new challenge. The club weren't letting me leave, and that, as I said, was tough to take on. It was weighing a lot on my shoulders, but like anything, once I was told I wasn't leaving, I put it behind me and focused on Villa for one more season, and I ended up really enjoying that year.
Barry the record breaker
We take a closer look at Gareth Barry's Premier League career ahead of his record-breaking appearance...
TAYLOR: A lot of the fans don't realise what's happened behind the scenes…
BARRY: That's it. I did take a bit of stick from the Villa fans, but now once all that has settled, I think the club appreciated the time I played there. I really enjoyed my time at Villa, they were great for me learning the game.
TAYLOR: How was winning the league in 2012 with City?
BARRY: That has to be the highlight of my career in terms of club football. The year before we'd won the FA Cup so I had a taste of winning a trophy. But the style in which we won that title, really coming out the blocks early, doing well through the season, a little blip and then tussling with Man Utd, and then really finishing the season strong. And everybody knows the dramatic win.
To be involved in that Premier League history, they'll be talking about that for years to come. It was nerve-wracking but something I was proud to be involved in. That moment will be tough to beat in league history.
TAYLOR: Who is the best player you've ever played with?
BARRY: If I were to have a list of my team-mates it'd go on forever. The one I enjoyed playing with is David Silva at Manchester City. As a midfielder receiving the ball and getting your head up early, he would always be in space, a pass would be on and he would be in acres of space. He is a little magician, capable of producing magic out of nowhere.
TAYLOR: The best player you've played against?
BARRY: In terms of finding games difficult I'd say Steven Gerrard at his peak at Liverpool. He was impossible to stop. He would drive forward and be aggressive defensively - he had everything to go with his game. I always found it tough playing against Gerrard and he was obviously a great player.
TAYLOR: And what about your managers?
BARRY: I've played under John Gregory, David O'Leary and Martin O'Neill. I've been around a long time and not had loads of managers, despite the quick turnover of managers in the modern game. If I go back and look at them, you take a tiny bit out of them and their strengths. I've been lucky to play under some fantastic managers. Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini and Pellegrini, for a little bit, at Manchester City. If I'm lucky enough to go down the route of being a manager, who is not appealing to me at the moment, I've had a lot of good managers, including Tony Pulis.
TAYLOR: So, who is the best manager you've played under?
BARRY: As I've said, you can take a slice out of all of them, they've all got their strengths and approach the game differently. I'm going to sit on the fence. Working under Martin O'Neill bettered my game, he made the decision that I should be a centre midfield, he gave me the captain's armband and confidence and that's where I broke into the England set up and became a regular. He had a big influence.
TAYLOR: How are you dealing with getting older?
BARRY: I am aware that time is slowly coming to an end and I'm trying to still enjoy it. I'm not trying to worry about my career ending. I've learned over the last few years that if you're going to keep going you've got to look after yourself and need to focus a day at a time and not worry too much. At the minute it's working for me.
TAYLOR: Has your training regime changed?
BARRY: Not really. At the minute I don't miss too many training sessions. The managers I've had have been lucky, they are aware of my age and know what I can and can't do. Ronald Koeman and Roberto Martinez give me different roles in training, as does Pulis who picks the right times for me to come in and out of training sessions. They deserve a lot of credit for the condition I'm in and that I'm ready to go on a matchday.
Pulis: Barry has been fantastic
Tony Pulis admits it has been 'a privilege' to work with Gareth Barry at West Brom
TAYLOR: You've played for England and won the Premier League, is there anything else you'd like to achieve?
BARRY: No. You can be greedy and say you want to win a trophy. I want to win a trophy at West Brom, I wanted to win a trophy at Everton but didn't manage that. I'm just enjoying football. It's a fantastic life we've got, I've taken nothing for granted. I take each day as it comes and see what happens. I'm not going to set any more targets.
TAYLOR: How much longer do you want to go on?
BARRY: As long as possible, who wouldn't? Everyone I've spoken to has told me to play as long as possible and not worry about it, that's certainly the road I'm going down. I'm going to play as long as possible and I'll hang my boots up when I stopped enjoying it and question what I'm doing on my way into training, or if I'm big enough to hold my hands up and admit I'm not at the level I want to be. You need to be able to perform at a high level so you have to be honest with yourself and accept it's time to hang up your boots. I'm a big enough character to know when that happens.
TAYLOR: What will it feel like running out at the Emirates and breaking that record?
BARRY: It's not the first thing that I'm thinking about. With the pressure that comes, my focus will be on performing for West Brom, doing my job, but there will be a small bit inside my head knowing the achievement I've made. It is certainly something I'll remember when I finish. I know my family are really proud of what I've achieved, they've told me that, and I've been getting messages from people on the streets so I'm delighted to have reached that number. But it will really sink in when I've finished.
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