An ‘unsung hero of football’ is how Gareth Barry will be remembered by members of the former Amington Boys Football Club as he sets to break the all-time Premier League appearance record tonight.
The West Bromwich Albion midfielder who has won the Premier League, the FA Cup and 53 England caps, could became the first man to notch up 633 top flight appearances, if he plays against Arsenal this evening (Monday, September 25).
Before his fame, though, back in 2001 a nineteen-year-old Gareth Barry of Aston Villa came to Tamworth to lead a training session at Greenacres Primary School that the youngsters of the club would never forget.
Mark Mortimer, former manager of the then Amington Boys, watched on as Gareth and Villa legend Lee Hendrie led the training, which stands vividly in his memory today.
He said: “It was a fantastic day and the lads were just great. At the time Lee was the more famous of the two, as Gareth was on the cusp of becoming a great star.
“We all know how confident and outgoing Lee Hendrie was and to be honest Gareth was the complete antithesis as he seemed really shy and quiet.
“They were brilliant with the kids, they were down at the school for about three hours and they both took the time to pass on their knowledge, give some great tips and even sign some autographs.
“Lee and Gareth were a credit to themselves and the Villa and throughout his career, Gareth Barry has been that cliché of a thing, the model professional."
Gareth began his career back in 1995 at Brighton and Hove Albion before moving to Villa in 1997.
He went on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Bromwich Albion.
Barry also played for England under 16s, under 18s, under 21s, and England B before making his full international debut in 2000.
But on that cold afternoon in 2001, he was yet to take the world by storm.
“Gareth Barry really is an unsung hero of English football,” said Mike. “He was never outwardly flash or arrogant, avoided scandal, kept his head down and worked ridiculously hard to make a name for himself in the sport without courting controversy or dodgy headlines.
“He has only ever made the headlines for his footballing prowess.
“Gareth, you deserve all the plaudits coming your way and I doff my cap to you.
“Congratulations on your incredible record in the Premier League.”
Should Gareth play tonight he will overtake Ryann Giggs's record of 632.
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