Bruised Barry trying to rebuild his reputation

Tonight's England captain, who wasn't even in the squad on Saturday, is aiming to make amends for woeful World Cup

It is hard to believe now that Gareth Barry's ankle was as much of a cause celebre amid England's World Cup preparations last May as the fractured metatarsals of David Beckham and Wayne Rooney had been to previous campaigns. "Barry preying on Fabio's mind" ran one headline at the time. "Not a prayer without crocked Barry" was another.

Wearing the captain's armband, as Barry will for the first time tonight, should be the pinnacle of a stately progression from a player whose performance against Israel in September 2007 was a revelation to the apparent lynchpin of Fabio Capello's side. Instead, Barry finds himself assailed from all sides by other England midfield prospects – Jack Wilshere and, as of Saturday, Scott Parker – and is unmistakably wounded by the fact that Capello did not even deem him worthy of a place on England's bench in Cardiff on Saturday.

He put a brave face on that yesterday – "this is just football; it sums up the game," he said – though he has grounds to feel he has been dealt a poor hand. Barry did travel to South Africa, of course, and though not fit when finally pressed into action for England's second game against Algeria, will always be cast as the midfielder whose lack of pace was exploited by Germany's Mesut Özil on that fateful afternoon in Bloemfontein, rather than the one prepared to risk his reputation by playing at less than his physical peak.

Barry was not allowing excuses yesterday. "It would be easy to say 'no I wasn't [fit]', that I wanted to get out there and play for my country, but I'm not like that. I'm not looking for an excuse. I felt fit enough. It's no excuse," he insisted. Neither is he pretending that he has blistering pace, though that is not what the nation was focusing on last May. "That's one thing that's been aimed at me since I was 17, a lack of pace," Barry said. "I'm no slower now than I was then. That one incident people recall, from the Germany game, [the fourth goal] was on the highest stage at the World Cup, so it will be remembered. I'm comfortable with it. You have to be strong and forget about it, play your normal game. I'm not going to go out and get some extra speed training. You are what you are. You're picked to play and do your job."

That "job" has never involved snapping into challenges like Claude Makelele in his pomp: the role he has been asked to perform for England is Nigel de Jong's at Manchester City, not his. Why Barry so obsessed the nation was that quiet and busy efficiency he can have at harassing opponents and shifting a ball – a killer pass sometimes – to a team-mate, to give England their rhythm.

With Parker so formidable in the harassing role, Wilshere so thrillingly inventive and Steven Gerrard also due back, the picture looks grey for Barry, though he has been here before. He waited three long years for his seventh international cap and when two came in 2003, there was another four-year wait for a ninth. But little wonder he looked more bruised than ebullient when he arrived yesterday to discuss his role as stand-in captain against Ghana.

There was a brief flash of the wit that is a lesser known part of his make-up. Asked if the England players were offered the same opportunity to challenge his appointment as when Capello gathered his team to reveal John Terry's reinstatement he said, "No. I didn't give them the chance." Yet you sensed his acute awareness of the struggle ahead. Barry as the pivot of England's midfield was "the way it was being spoken about" last May, he agreed. "I was comfortable playing there and my form was good for England. On Saturday I wasn't involved, and now I'm captain. That's just football and the way things can change. I'm not sitting here thinking I'm a regular again for England, that I don't have to keep my form. It doesn't work like that."

ABSENT FRIENDS

* Through injury or otherwise, England are without a number of experienced players for tonight's visit of Ghana.



Injured
Rio Ferdinand (calf; 80 caps)
Ben Foster (virus; five caps)
Steven Gerrard (groin; 89 caps)
Adam Johnson (ankle; six caps)
Ledley King (thigh/knee; 21 caps)
Aaron Lennon (hamstring; 19 caps)
Theo Walcott (ankle; 16 caps)
Kyle Walker (groin; no caps)

Rested
Ashley Cole (88 caps)
Michael Dawson (four caps)
Frank Lampard (85 caps)
Wayne Rooney (70 caps)
John Terry (67 caps)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent