Following a rare mistake from goalkeeper Tim Howard, Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o had the Everton goal at his mercy. But just as the Cameroonian thought he had equalized for Chelsea with the simplest of tap ins, a lunging Gareth Barry deflected the forward’s goal bound effort away from goal and behind for a corner, and drew widespread applause and cheers galore from all four stands of Goodison Park.
Barry’s block proved to be as vital as Steven Naismith’s winning goal, in the clash with the Londoners last September, and in turn helped to kick start Everton’s 2013/14 season. And it is of paramount importance that the Blues ensure that the 33 year old, currently a free agent after being released by reigning Premier League champions Manchester City earlier in the summer, puts pen to paper on a permanent stay on Merseyside.
The triple deadline day loan signings of Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Barry himself last September, along with the permanent addition of James McCarthy, ensured that the former England international’s arrival slipped under the radar somewhat amongst Evertonians, such was the excitement that surrounded the additions to the playing ranks of Messrs Lukaku, McCarthy and Deulofeu, and there were even some sections of supporters that disapproved of the deal to bring him to Goodison Park for the season, attesting to his poor performances for England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as a prime example of a player supposedly past his best.
The former Aston Villa captain swayed those opinions throughout the course of last season, however, with a series of composed, mature performances that aided Everton in securing a fifth place finish in the Premier League, and with it a return to European football for the first time since the 2009/10 season. Barry was also consistently praised by fans and fellow squad members alike for his range of passing, positional awareness, ability to break down opposition forays forward and composure in the centre of the park, with James McCarthy stating that he would learn much from the veteran midfielder a mere two weeks after both had made the switch to L4 from Wigan Athletic and Manchester City respectively.
It is these attributes, alongside Barry’s experience, influence and professionalism, both on and off the pitch. that has led to calls for Roberto Martinez to make the defensive midfielder a permanent fixture on the Blue half of Merseyside and, with rumours over the last forty eight hours stating that Barry is on the verge of pledging his future to Everton on a three year deal, it is clear to see that Barry’s temporary switch at Goodison Park was a positive one for all parties.
Undoubtedly, there will be concerns raised over Barry’s wage demands (he commanded £100,000 a week whilst at Manchester City, according to reports, which Everton will be unable to match) and over the potential length of the contract itself, considering Barry is in the twilight of his career, but they are few and far between, and considering that these minor hurdles are not related to Barry’s performances in the Royal Blue jersey it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a agreement can be reached.
With any luck, Evertonians will be seeing Barry adding to his thirty two appearances thus far for Everton next season. Opposition strikers better prepare themselves for some miserable afternoons in front of goal if that’s the case.