If veteran midfielder Gareth Barry retired tomorrow, he could do so comfortable in the knowledge that the Premier League appearance record of which he is justly proud might never be broken.
Barry took his tally to 653 before West Bromwich Albion were relegated last season. The only still-active player with more than 500 games is Liverpool’s James Milner, who is 147 appearances behind.
Yet Barry, who turns 38 next Saturday, still thinks he can add a few more – and leading Albion to victory over his old club Aston Villa strengthened his conviction that the chance to do so might come sooner rather than later.
It was a seventh away win in eight for Darren Moore’s team, with clean sheets in four of the last five. “I think the way we saw the game out in the second half was a good sign,” he said after Albion had successfully protected a 2-0 half-time lead achieved through goals by Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez.
“In certain games this season we have probably been a bit too open when we have been leading and conceded goals. But we showed great character, kept our shape and they only had a couple of half-chances really. It is something we are probably going to need in the rest of the season, that character and resilience to keep clean sheets, and this showed that as a team we can do that.”
It would have surprised no one had the former Manchester City and Everton player left the Hawthorns last summer, especially after his role in the infamous ‘taxigate’ incident on a team trip to Barcelona, but says it is in his character “to not just run away.”
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself but if we were to get promoted on the back of last season it would rank up there as a great achievement of my career,” he said. “To play in the Premier League again would be amazing.”
Villa, with only two wins in their last 13 matches, look out of the running. “I don’t think we could have done much more in the second half,” manager Dean Smith said. “But we didn’t have enough quality.”