It came as quite a shock to us all when Albion captain Darren Fletcher decided he want to move on from The Hawthorns for a new challenge. Whatever way you looked at the end of Fletcher’s time at the Hawthorns, the club were losing a regular starter, a leader on the pitch and a character in the dressing room.
There was no shadow of a doubt a personality like Fletcher’s had to be replaced so Premier League veteran Gareth Barry being available from Everton for a mere £1 million fee was a no-brainer.
A large share of Albion fans were happy with the signing and it spoke volumes that Everton fans, nor Ronald Koeman wanted Barry to leave but appreciated his hunger for more regular football.
Manchester City fans, who saw him play a vital role in their title-winning side in 2012, also had nothing but good things to say about him and supporters of Aston Villa were also left devastated a legend of theirs was moving to a rival.
Barry got off to a decent start earlier in the season under Tony Pulis and impressed in games against Burnley, Stoke, West Ham and Man City. However, like many players were held back by the manager’s style of play.
When Alan Pardew took over Barry found a new lease of life and we saw more incisive passing, composure on the ball and terrific reading of the game. Barry was a joy to watch against Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool in the FA Cup and both home and away to Everton.
The 37-year-old was showing signs of a ‘fine wine’ kind of player throughout the season and surpassed Ryan Giggs as the Premier League’s record appearance maker which was pleasing to see achieved in the blue and white stripes.
Barry was having a reasonably good season up until the team’s trip to Barcelona. Not only was he one of the ‘cab four’ that reportedly got drunk and stole a taxi but this was followed by poor back-to-back performances against Southampton and Huddersfield.
The midfielder has since been injured and was pictured in a nightclub in Birmingham the night before the Burnley fixture last week.
Solely for the last two months, the Albion fans have completely turned on Barry for both his performances and actions off the field. The former Everton man has been accused of a poor attitude and has been booed since stealing a taxi.
With regard to taxi-gate, criticism is without a doubt justified for each of Barry, Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill but it seems Barry has received the worst of it over the rest.
This is probably due to Barry’s poor performances but in reality, these were two games before he got injured and which players, in the rotten losing streak, can you even say have performed well bar maybe, Salomon Rondon?
These past few months can be written off for several Albion players, including Barry as they’ve never performed as badly in their whole careers but a lot can be pointed at Pardew’s poor man-management and lack of authority.
Barry’s appearance out in Snobs nightclub has caused an overreaction with fans accusing him of a lack of care towards the club but he was injured and never going to be featuring against Burnley the next day. Besides, no one knows how much he had to drink or even if he was at all. There couldn’t have been any real issue given Barry showed up in time for his treatment the next morning, according to the manager.
People may think Barry’s treatment is probably a lack of class towards a club he doesn’t care about but you can date back to 2010 when Barry was a mainstay in a title-challenging Man City side and was involved in a drinking scandal in Scotland. He, along with teammates Adam Johnson, Shay Given and Joe Hart were caught partying in student digs until all hours of the morning while on a trip to Scotland.
Recently, it was revealed Barry can now trigger a year’s extension in his contract after making 25 appearances this season. It would be ridiculous to assume Barry would play on in a league below just to sit around and collect his wages. There’s no doubt there will be pay-cuts next year and those who want to stay will know that.
Many will be against it but if the midfielder wants to play on and fight for promotion next season the fans should get behind him. You’d never know, he could be a vital player to have in the quest to come back up to the Premier League.