The Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne said last night that he refused to celebrate his goal against former club Manchester City out of "respect" for the fans on the night that Gareth Barry was given a hostile reception on his return to Villa Park.
Dunne did not smile or raise an arm in celebration when he headed in Villa's goal on 15 minutes after Barry failed to challenge at a corner. The Irish international was applauded by the City fans who even sung "once a blue, always a blue" to him during the second half, in which Craig Bellamy scored the equaliser to earn City a 1-1 draw.
Dunne said: "I don't have a celebration – when I score it's usually a surprise. I really enjoyed my time at City and I really respect the club and the fans and [not celebrating] seemed the right thing to do.
"It just seems to happen playing against your former club, people seem to score. I wasn't expecting to score tonight. Unfortunately we couldn't go on from there and get the second. Manchester City are a real good team and they're going to push the top four this season. We feel we've got as much chance as teams like City, Everton, Tottenham – we feel we're as good as them."
Barry, returning to Villa Park for the first time since his £12m departure in the summer, was booed and had £20 notes waved at him by Villa fans who believe he joined City simply for the money. The England midfield was suffering from a sore back towards the end of the game and will be checked by the England medical staff to assess whether he is fit enough to fly to Ukraine on Thursday for the World Cup qualifier.
Barry's manager Mark Hughes blamed what he said was a "minority" of Villa fans for the abuse of Barry. "People do appreciate what he did for Villa but sometimes the minority have a louder voice. I don't think the whole stadium was shouting abuse."
Hughes said that he was proud of the way City fans reacted to Dunne. "The City fans were fantastic," Hughes said. "In terms of their reaction to Dunney I wasn't surprised because he was a fantastic player for Manchester City in good times and difficult times. The fans appreciate that and I was proud of their reaction."
Martin O'Neill praised his team's performance but said that Villa should have won the game. "I thought that Dunne was magnificent," he said. "I also thought that James Collins alongside him was fantastic. Dunne was immense. There was a determination to play well. Apparently his celebrations went down well because he hardly celebrated at all. I didn't know that because I was too busy celebrating myself. But I'm delighted to have him here.
"It will have been strange for both players [Dunne and Barry]. The players here have a great respect for Gareth Barry. My opinion of him as a footballer hasn't changed in three years."