Having often been used as a left-back or left-sided midfielder early in his career, it is in the middle of the park that Gareth Barry has really blossomed. Born in Sussex, Barry started out at Brighton and Hove Albion before joining Aston Villa, where he made his Premier League debut as a 17-year-old towards the end of 1997/98. A regular starter since the following campaign, Barry gave the Villans many years of loyal service before making the switch to big-spending Manchester City in summer 2009.
A former England U-18 captain, Barry made an impressive 27 appearances for the Three Lions’ U-21 squad, which equalled the previous record set by Jamie Carragher. Late in the 1999/00 season, when still only 19, the fierce-shooting left-footer appeared for the U-21s under then boss Howard Wilkinson in a UEFA U-21 Championship qualifying play-off against Yugoslavia.
Barry quickly followed this up by forcing his way into the plans of senior supremo Kevin Keegan, collecting his first cap in a friendly against Ukraine on 31 May 2000. By the start of the 2007/08 campaign he still had just nine caps, however, which makes his total of almost 40, all the more impressive.
After successive England managers failed to forge Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard into a functioning central-midfield pairing, first Steve McClaren and now Fabio Capello have found Barry to be the ideal foil for one of the more attack-minded duo, with Barry, Lampard and Gerrard all playing in the same line-up on recent occasions to good effect.