Thursday 4 June ~

We live in an age when celebrities feel a need to issue public statements about every thing that happens to them. But it is doubtful that any of the various tales of relationship break-ups and addiction problems that will clog up the media over the summer will be as pompous and badly judged as Gareth Barry's 650-word "open letter to Aston Villa fans" published in yesterday's Birmingham Mail.

Barry claimed to have changed his mind about leaving several times but decided to accept Man City's offer because "I have a massive fear of going stale and falling into a comfort zone". Some might think that accepting a wage of £80,000 a week for five years is the very definition of comfort, but then they don't inhabit the strange, enclosed world of the professional footballer.

Barry and his advisers appear to think that his decision to join Manchester City is an event of huge magnitude in the lives of most Villa supporters. That impression might be borne out by a quick scan of today's papers, which carry several comments from disgruntled fans who declare him to be variously "a traitor", "a disgrace" and "a Judas". But that is far from being the prevailing view. Many Villa fans have reacted with indifference – but a roll of the eyes and a shrug won't have been much use to the reporters prowling outside Villa Park looking for a response to suit their pre-prepared headlines about "Fans Fury".

Barry spent 12 years at Villa during which he developed into a very good player. His England career stalled for a while because Sven evidently didn't rate him, but his displays for Villa over the past three seasons have rightly made him a regular in the national squad. Despite his longevity at the club, he wouldn't make anyone's shortlist for the greatest-ever Villa team. More popular players have left for the same reason as Barry, because they were offered more money elsewhere, without any of this posturing.

As well as strengthening their squad, Man City will also feel that they have significantly weakened one of the other outside contenders for a top four place. But if City do qualify for the Champions League over the next couple of years, they will then be looking to buy better players than Gareth Barry. He may end up no closer to turning out in Champions League fixtures than he was at the end of 2008-09. But at least that will help him to avoid getting sucked into that comfort zone.

Comments (2)
Comment by Chensby 2009-06-04 18:51:12

These sentiments are spot on. Villa fans' affection for Barry was pretty well shattered last summer when the gloomy love triangle between Gerrard, Barry and the Champions' League was revealed. Still, Gareth can swap getting booed at the pre season friendly with Walsall with some July shuttle sprints against Richard Dunne.

Comment by bangsection 2009-06-06 08:29:41

As a Walsall fan, I wonder if Villa supporters could let me know which one of your players you will be booing at the Banks's this year. I have fond memories of Lee Hendrie kicking a ball at his own fans and storming off a few years ago, and then there was the prolonged barracking of Mr Barry mentioned above. So who's it to be? John Carew? That Shorey chap? Give us enough notice and we'll even join in!

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