Barry sets sights on record Villa start

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The Independent Football

As captain of the last unbeaten team in the top four divisions, Gareth Barry has set his sights on helping Aston Villa break the record he helped create six years ago by making their best-ever start to a season.

Barry was part of John Gregory's team which made a strong start to the 1998-99 campaign and briefly enjoyed a spell at the top of the Premiership before eventually falling to eighth.

Now the defender-turned-midfielder-turned-defender-again is playing a major role in the start made by Martin O'Neill's side and after eight games Villa are the only side unbeaten, following Everton's weekend reversal at Middlesbrough.

Barry, who kept the run going with a superb equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham, said: "I'd heard Everton had lost after Saturday's game to leave us as the only unbeaten team and it's been a brilliant start.

"If people had said we would have been the last unbeaten team, it would have been hard to believe, especially with the away fixtures we faced at Arsenal, West Ham and Chelsea.

"Can we beat the record? It's a tough ask. There are so many tough teams. The confidence is there and we don't roll over now so it is possible. It is maybe a mini-target for us to achieve but in between we want to pick up as many points as possible. Having drawn at home on Saturday, there is a bit more pressure now to beat Fulham this weekend and get three points."

Villa's stand-in goalkeeper Stuart Taylor is hoping that he has given O'Neill a selection headache for the visit of Chris Coleman's side. Taylor made only his third start for the Midlands club - and his first at Villa Park - against Tottenham, because the regular keeper Thomas Sorensen has a shoulder injury.

The former England Under-21 pulled off several fine saves and was only beaten by Juan Pablo Angel's own goal - 60-odd seconds after the Colombian striker missed a penalty.

Taylor said: "Obviously it's been a long wait for me. It's not often Thomas gets injured so I have a lot of sitting around and waiting.

"It was finally nice to get a chance to play at home. I just said to myself that I'd go in and do a job. I made a couple of decent saves in the first half, but they were saves I'd expect to make. I got a bit of stick from Spurs fans, like 'Arsenal reject', but you expect that."

Taylor leapt to Angel's defence after the Colombian's 60 seconds of action he would prefer to forget. He said: "Juan has been fantastic this season. He's been holding the ball up tremendously for us. He's been strong and scored a few goals. But every now and then you have one of those days and we've all got to put an arm round him.

"The corner came in and I shouted, to take a nice easy catch. Juan said: 'I heard you shout, but I just froze.' It's one of those things."

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