Hughes urges fans to respect Barry

Gareth Barry's rapid emergence as Manchester City's outstanding summer signing will not have taken the sting out of his departure from Aston Villa but Mark Hughes has suggested his old club's fans should recognise what he gave to them across a 12-year career, not what he has taken away.

"I think now people have to make a judgement for themselves but I think the service that Gareth gave to Aston Villa was exemplary," Hughes said, ahead of tonight's match at Villa Park. "Maybe instead of trying to really take issue with players on occasions, we should be thanking them and acknowledging them, for what they did for the club while they were there."

Hughes acknowledges that Barry's £12m transfer – a source of rancour for Villa fans, after the 28-year-old's insistence that he would only leave for Champions League football – helped encourage others to join City in the summer. "At that time we were just trying to bring players to the club. But Gareth's come in and straight away made people sit up and take notice."

Richard Dunne headed in the opposite direction, complaining bitterly last month that he had been betrayed by the City executive chairman Garry Cook, though Hughes will brook no more of that argument. "If Richard wanted to stay then he wouldn't have signed for Aston Villa," he said.

Martin O'Neill believes City already pose a "genuine threat" in terms of breaking into the Premier League's top four. The Villa manager said: "You can draw comparisons with Chelsea a few years ago. They had a talented manager [Jose Mourinho] and won two Premier League titles on the bounce. They made Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal sit up and take notice. Now City have been able to accumulate players by spending big."

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