Barry keen to Kop cup win as City look to overturn first leg deficit
If one FA Cup winner’s medal and four Champions League appearances this season are not enough for Gareth Barry to justify his decision to choose Manchester City over Liverpool, he can always fall back on an uncompromising message from the Anfield faithful that filtered through his television speakers in the summer of 2008.
Word had got out that Rafael Benitez was prepared to let crowd favourite Xabi Alonso leave Merseyside, and Barry was the man he wanted to replace the Spaniard.
Aston Villa rejected Liverpool’s offers of up to 15million for their England midfielder even though Barry had declared his desire to move to Anfield and play in the Champions League. Until, that is, he was sat at home watching Benitez’s side take on Lazio in a televised pre-season friendly.
Glory: Gareth Barry (left) hopes to help Manchester City to Wembley
‘The Liverpool fans were singing, “you can stick Gareth Barry up your a***”,’ he recalls. ‘That might have got into my head a little bit!
‘It was while the transfer saga was going on. I was at home and I could just hear it vaguely. It’s part and parcel of football.’
Alonso left Anfield for Real Madrid the following summer but, instead of moving to Liverpool, Barry changed his mind and joined the City revolution in a 12m deal.
This time it was the Villa supporters who targeted him for moving to a club that had just finished 10th when his stated ambition was to play in the Champions League.
Barry was conscientious enough to write a letter to the local Birmingham paper thanking the fans for their support and outlining a belief that his new club would become a major force under Abu Dhabi rule.
Two-and-a-half years later, with City top of the Premier League having lifted their first trophy in 35 years and played in the Champions League for the first time this season, the 30-year-old believes he has been proved right.
As he prepares for Wednesday's trip
to Anfield in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, Barry said:
‘People tell me I’ve made the right decision joining City.
Right move: Gareth Barry joined Manchester City from Aston Villa
‘Obviously Liverpool is a fantastic
club with a great following, but I won the FA Cup last year and I’ve
played in the Champions League.
‘At the time, Liverpool were still
interested when I decided to join City. I thought about it really hard
but the things the club were talking about, I felt City were on the up
whereas Liverpool were maybe finding it a bit tougher than City.
‘It wasn’t an easy decision. I was
signing on promises being made really and, in football, promises get
made all the time. They can backfire and people can end up saying they
made the wrong decision.
‘But sitting here now, I think it’s
been a very good decision. I took a bit of stick for a few weeks, as you
know, but I took the long-term view and believed that at the end of the
contract I could say I’d made the right decision.
‘I don’t get as much stick now. Like
everything else, it dies off slowly. Mind you, I’ve not been back to
Villa Park this season yet!’
That comes around on February 12. On
Wednesday, Barry is set to face his Anfield critics again as City look
to overturn a one-goal deficit from the first leg.
He is confident Roberto Mancini’s
side can recover and that another trophy in the City cabinet would only
increase their chances of deposing neighbours Manchester United as
Premier League champions.
Next generation Barry hopes to inspire the players of the future
‘We’re desperate to win the Carling Cup,’ he
said. ‘We were very disappointed with our performance at home but we’re
good enough to go to Anfield and turn it round.
‘It’s obviously going to be a really
tough task but with us being a goal behind and playing away from home,
maybe the pressure will be on them a little bit more.
‘It will definitely help the confidence inside the club if we win a cup midway through the season.
‘I’d be very proud to win a Premier
League title so hopefully we can get across the line. People respect
players probably more so depending on what they’ve achieved and what
they’ve won, so it would be a massive thing for me.’
There remains one detractor Barry is
never likely to win over, however. Joey Barton, QPR’s former City
midfielder, labelled him a teacher’s pet to England boss Fabio Capello
in a typically outspoken interview with a French magazine last year.
Neil Warnock and numerous other
figures in football targeted by the serial Tweeter will know how he
feels, but Barry has not lost any sleep over it.
Did it get under his skin ‘No, not
really,’ he says. ‘If it was someone else then maybe, but it didn’t
really affect me too much at all.’
Barry has heard from harsher critics. And the majority of them will be at Anfield.
Gareth Barry was speaking at the launch of Strike a Balance, a healthy eating initiative run by Manchester City and sponsored by Hill Dickinson.