Gareth Barry: 'Trophies are my goal. Even our Carling Cup loss hurt'
In an exclusive interview, Gareth Barry speaks to Sam Wallace about City's moment of truth against Chelsea today, and his hunger for the silverware he believes he deserves
Saturday 25 September 2010
Gareth Barry watched Manchester City's Carling Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday at home on television and he is honest enough to admit that at the end of the game came that old feeling again: there goes another trophy.
Barry has been an England regular for three years now and has played more than 400 games in the Premier League. He is one of the few players whom Roberto Mancini can be relied upon to select in every big Manchester City game. He was a professional at 17 and an England international before he was 20 but he has never won a major trophy.
It gave him pause for thought this week as the rain fell outside on City's training ground just two days away from City's biggest test of the season so far, against Chelsea at lunchtime today. Chelsea proved that the old monopoly on English football could be broken which is a lesson not lost on City or Barry who, in 12 years as a professional footballer, has one runners' up medal from the FA Cup final in 2000 and – ahem – an InterToto Cup triumph from 2001.
Barry, 29, is a reserved, thoughtful character who weighs his words carefully. He is one of those players who seems to have been around forever, despite being relatively young, although only in the last three years does he seem to have been truly appreciated. One year after joining City, he laughs at the suggestion that in Mancini's new-look team he is already a relative veteran. Last summer, he made the biggest decision of his career, leaving behind Aston Villa after 12 years at the club to join Sheikh Mansour's City revolution in what, he is eager to point out, was a move he believed would give him the chance finally to win something. He has three years left on his contract after this season and he is conscious that time is ticking.
"I have played a lot of games, had a good international career and picked up a lot of caps but it is not going to be complete without winning trophies so that is my main goal," Barry says. "I was sitting at home watching the Carling Cup game thinking 'That's another trophy gone'. It is hard to take when you go out of these competitions but it just makes you more determined to succeed eventually.
"At a club like this people are just waiting for it to happen but there is so much hard work that needs to go in. Having been around I know how difficult it is to get results in this league. It doesn't just happen by buying players. It needs a lot of hard work. That is why the first trophy can be the most important one and if we can get one the sooner the better."
When it comes to the business of converting one rich man's fortune into success in football, Chelsea are the obvious template. Barry says that "it is for us to look at them and say we can achieve that". There is another obvious question for a team with such a wealthy owner: with virtually the entire City team signed within the last two years, and competition for places so tough, how does the whole dynamic of the City project work?
In The Independent today, Carlos Tevez discusses his fraught relationship with Mancini. Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland have already been shipped out. It surely cannot be long before Emmanuel Adebayor loses patience with being relegated to the bench. Barry, as you might expect, provides quite a contrast to all the aforementioned.
"I will be no different if I am left out the team. I will be frustrated. It is just the same. Every individual will deal with it differently. I would like to say that when the time comes I will deal with it and be a professional. At the same time everybody wants to play and it can get frustrating. I think it is important that the players keep a one-track mind, work hard and think of the club and the team as well.
"When players come in you have a look at people's personalities: Do they need help settling in? Are they quiet? We make more of an effort to help them settle in. In some cases they already know the players who are here. James [Milner] settled in straight away because he knows a lot of the squad. Someone like Aleksandar Kolarov who doesn't know anyone is going to need a bit more help settling in. If you spoke to him now I am sure he would tell you that he was welcomed and that things are good."
Last season Barry was in the City side that beat Chelsea home and away which, given that the champions lost only six games in the league all season, was some achievement. By Barry's own admission, City have "not set the world alight" at the start of this season but this lunchtime they have an opportunity to demonstrate that this side that had a further £126m spent on it this summer can take on the best in English football. "It doesn't happen naturally, it does take a little bit of time to get to know each other," Barry says. "We need to show that when we get some negative results we can bounce back. Last season it happened. We had a bad run and suddenly we won some big games and you could tell everyone was lifted and the spirit came together. At the minute it is pretty good and the players we have in the dressing room want to work for the manager.
"Against Chelsea you will have periods in the game when you are right up against it, when they keep the ball. They are pretty solid the way they set their team up. Last season we hung on and didn't concede the goals. Once we did score we grew in confidence. It is the same sort of gameplan: try to work hard and stop them if we do get a goal and if we do create chances, I think our confidence will come."
Three years ago it was a thigh injury to Owen Hargreaves before England played Israel at home in a Euro 2008 qualifier in September that gave Barry his chance in the national team. He has never looked back. The switch to central midfield under Martin O'Neill at Villa transformed his international career and it also meant that when City looked to invest in the best of English talent they came to Barry last summer.
"It would be perfect to end my [trophy-winning] drought and the club's as well," Barry says. "I am really looking forward to achieving that."
All those years he spent outside the England team were, Barry says in his understated way, "frustrating". He and Steven Gerrard made their England debuts as teenagers in the same game but Barry has less than half the caps of the man he roomed next-door to at Euro 2000.
At 29, Barry is finally at a club that gives him the chance to compete with peers like Gerrard and the rest of England's so-called "golden generation". "The first trophy here is going to be the most important," Barry says. "The fans have a rivalry with Manchester United and you look at how successful they have been, it is a case of getting over that line, winning a trophy and stopping the banter. The quicker the better."
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