Crouch sale was wrong, says Barry

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The Independent Online

Gareth Barry has claimed that the previous Aston Villa manager, David O'Leary, was wrong to sell Peter Crouch to Southampton as the Liverpool striker prepares to face his former colleagues in Saturday's Premiership match at Anfield.

Crouch was sold by O'Leary to the Saints for a cut-price £2m in the summer of 2004 after struggling to earn a regular spot at Villa. But he earned a £7m move from St Mary's to Liverpool 12 months later and has gone on to become a prolific marksman for England.

Barry, who inspired his side to a thrilling victory over Leicester in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, said: "Was it wrong to get rid of Peter Crouch? Yes. When you look at it now, definitely. What he has gone on to achieve is something special. He has dropped down a level [at Southampton] and bounced back to be a top England striker. It says a great deal about his character.

"I always felt during Crouchy's time at Villa, when he got his chance he did pretty well for us. His goalscoring record wasn't always prolific but his size and his ability caused teams problems. It was very unfortunate for us that we let him go. I remember he scored twice at Leicester when we won 5-0 and was then left out for the next game. That summed up his time with us."

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has been criticised for constantly rotating his players - a sharp contrast to the settled side that the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, has fielded for most of the season, save for injuries to Luke Moore and Gavin McCann.

Barry said: "Liverpool have obviously got loads of class players up there that means Benitez can afford to rotate. Whether that is the right thing to do throughout the season is his decision. For a team like us, a settled team helps us and does make it easier when we go out on to the pitch."

Villa will go to Anfield looking to defend their 11-game unbeaten start to the season in all competitions. Barry said: "We have gone away to big teams this season and taken big points off Arsenal and Chelsea. Liverpool will be no different in terms of being a big test for us. They will be wanting to win because they have had a bit of an indifferent start, so it might make it a bit tougher."

Barry maintained his excellent start to the campaign with an excellent performance against Leicester, despite having the second of his two penalties saved by the Foxes goalkeeper Paul Henderson before Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a late winner.

O'Neill said: "I thought Gabby [Agbonlahor] was exceptional for us but if there was a better player playing than Gareth Barry, I didn't see them. I thought he was magnificent. He has been since the beginning of the season but against Leicester, at a stage when both teams looked tired, you felt Barry and Gabby might produce something for us again.

"Gabby got the winning goal, and he has been doing superbly for us, but Barry was fantastic."

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