May 18, 2024

John Gregory has revealed the circumstances which led him handing Gareth Barry his Aston Villa debut as a 17-year-old.

Club legend Barry went on to make more than 440 appearances for Villa over the next 11 years following his maiden outing at Sheffield Wednesday on May, 2, 1998.

The 52-times capped England midfielder was sold to Manchester City in 2009 for £12m, where he won the Premier League title and picked up a FA Cup winner’s medal before spells at Everton and West Brom.

Barry announced his playing retirement at the end of the 2019-20 season, following 837 games and 67 goals for his respective clubs.

However, speaking on the Undr the Cosh Podcast, former Villa manager Gregory revealed it was his annoyance with strikers Stan Collymore and Savo Milosevic which led him handing Barry his debut at Hillsborough.

Gregory admitted he was irritated by the duo’s reaction to being named on the bench for the then Premiership game which the visitors won 3-1. The former Villa manager said; ‘We played at Sheffield Wednesday in my first few weeks at the club. Big Ron (Atkinson) was the manager (there).

‘Before the game, I sat them (the players) down in the dressing room, I’m announcing the team and I’ve got four strikers, of which I’m going to pick two. I’ve got (Julian) Joachim, (Dwight) Yorke, Milosevic and Collymore.

Four very good strikers. I’ve got to pick two. So I picked Joachim and Yorke, I’m playing them two up front. Milsovec and Stan are subs.

‘So Yorkey has missed the team talk, He was out putting tickets on or something and I’ve announced the team in the dressing room. So no-one knows what the team was until I’ve announced it.

Yorkey suddenly comes back into the dressing room, the players are now starting to get changed and he says: “Gaffer, gaffer, sorry, sorry, I was putting tickets on. Am I playing?” I said: “Yeah, you’re playing”.

He said: “Who am I playing with?” So I said Joachim and he went: “Yes!” Straight away – and that tells you everything, He just went “Yes!”

‘We warmed up. In those days it was five subs. So there was 16 of us going out for the warm-up. The physio has marked out the warm-up area over the far side of the pitch.

So we go over the far side, got the balls out, just warming up, and then we started the proper warm-up and I’ve looked at the numbers thinking there’s two missing.

These two have never spoke to each other. They weren’t mates, they don’t ever talk to each other ever. They’re from different worlds. Now they’re best mates.

‘I said (to myself): “fxxxxxx leave them,  bxxxxxxx to them”. So we’ve finished the warm-up, gone in, got ourselves ready for the game and I know I might have to do something about these two. But, at the moment, my team is more important. I’ve got three points to win.

‘Anyway, after 20 minutes, Ian Taylor, playing central midfield – a great lad, by the way, a great lad, great player – he gets an injury. He’s got to come off.

So I’ve got to put someone on central midfield and I’ve looked at the bench thinking: “Gareth Barry!” Seventeen, never played in the first team before in his life. I’ve looked at him and said: “Come on, Gareth. On you go”.

I could have picked Collymore or Milosevic and put them on. But I’ve thought: “Fxxx you!” I’ve got Gareth Barry, young kid.

Actually, the day I signed, I think he turned 17. On you come. We stuck him central midfield and he was brilliant.

We won 3-1, won five on the trot away from home and Gareth had made his debut playing central midfield, and that was it

‘I just left Collymore and Milosevic. I should have maybe (called them up). But I thought, “nah, fxxk it!”

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