The Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, has paid tribute to Gareth Barry as the midfielder prepares to play his 500th Premier League game.
Should Barry feature against Newcastle United on Monday night, as expected, he will become just the 10th player since the Premier League’s inception in 1992 to reach the landmark, putting him in the esteemed company of such players as Ryan Giggs, Frank Lampard and former Everton utility man Phil Neville.
The 32-year-old Barry started out as a central defender at Aston Villa before establishing himself as a central midfielder and earning a £12m switch to Manchester City, where he was part of their title-winning squad in 2012. His loan departure came as a shock to some in the City camp, according to Everton full-back Leighton Baines, and Martinez sees no indication of Barry’s talent waning.
“I don’t think there are many more significant records than that,” the Everton manager said of Barry’s potential landmark. “I think it represents his professionalism, the way he looks after himself, the way he sees the game and the experience that he brings into any side.
“And you can add the 50 appearances he’s had for England, so far. He’s in such a great moment in his career.”
Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, believes Everton are in a strong position this season, despite the exit of their former manager David Moyes and key midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United during the summer.
Martinez is busily stamping his own mark on the players he inherited from Moyes, having added summer signings Barry, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku to the mix, and the early signs have been promising.
Asked if Martinez had big shoes to fill, Pardew said: “Yes, but they have signed some good players and you would have to say that they have got what looks like a stronger squad than David had last year.
“Certainly the chairman there has done his bit, and they could be the surprise package of the season.
“Their retention of the ball will probably be greater under Roberto.What we have shown is that we have got a real offensive look about us, but we have got to make sure we are tight enough to cope with that.
“We weren’t against Hull [who won 3-2 at St James’ Park], but in the last three or four games, other than that game, we have been and that’s important.”
Probable Goodison Park teams
HOWARD, JAGIELKA, COLEMAN, DISTIN, BAINES, GIBSON, NAISMITH, BARRY, BARKLEY, MIRALLAS, LUKAKU
KRUL, SANTON, COLOCCINI, YANGA-MBIWA, DEBUCHY, GOUFFRAN, CABAYE, SISSOKO, BEN ARFA, CISSE, REMY
Kick-off 8pm (Sky Sports 1; highlights 1.30am)
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).