Belfast Telegraph

Barry plays down acclaim on milestone night

premier league

by ANDY SIMS

Gareth Barry's big night may have ended in disappointment, but the congratulations still poured in for the Premier League's new record appearance holder.

The West Brom midfielder made his 633rd appearance in the 2-0 loss at Arsenal on last night, surpassing the previous record set by former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs.

It was a typically unfussy performance from the 36-year-old, who had wanted little fanfare surrounding his achievement, although in a nice touch Baggies boss Tony Pulis named him captain for the night.

"Gareth has been a wonderful professional and still is," said the West Brom boss.

"We hope he keeps performing like that until the end of the season."

Barry predictably downplayed the achievement with the same no-nonsense style he has made a 21-season career out of.

"It was something different this week, having a lot of media attention," he said. "It will be nice to put this milestone to bed.

"I've not really given too much thought about who is behind me. There is so much concentration on what you are doing."

Barry did, though, receive a personal message of congratulations from the England manager, his former Aston Villa team-mate Gareth Southgate.

"I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate you on an incredible achievement," said Southgate.

"I think back to watching you for the first time as a young kid at Bodymoor Heath and realising straight away that I was in trouble for my place.

"Thankfully we played three at the back and you were able to play alongside me.

"I thoroughly enjoyed helping you in that early part of your career, being around when you first joined up with England, and you've gone on to incredible achievements, way beyond what I ever did as a player."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who tried to sign Barry twice, was also also fulsome in his praise.

Writing in his programme notes, Wenger said: "It's an incredible achievement but he is a marvellous player.

"I think he's been underrated because he is always focused, determined, strong in the challenge, has good vision, a top-quality left foot and is also a very good defender.

"He's a very intelligent player on the pitch and breaking Ryan Giggs' record is a remarkable achievement because it shows this guy has dedicated his life to the game.

"It's a shame he didn't get more England caps but he was playing at a time when it was hard to get in the team ahead of players like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham."

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