May 28, 2012
In the prelude to an international tournament, any England injury is treated as a ‘crisis’ or ‘scare’ – most journalists in this country seem to be contractually obliged to describe it as such.
In the case of Gareth Barry’s groin, there’s no need for a loss of sleep.
The Manchester City midfielder is one of those players who has managed to exist at England-level by doing everything decently and nothing particularly well. It’s an obvious example, but look no further than England’s 2010 World Cup campaign for why Barry will never be essential to his country.
In Roberto Mancini’s side, he’s the conduit between Yaya Toure and David Silva, and with all due respect, there are many players who could operate efficiently between such accomplished performers. Barry’s like the support act at a gig: as long as nothing goes badly wrong, he’s doing his job.
For City, such a player can exist because of the exaggerated pockets of quality in the side, but for England the conditions are clearly different. If anybody sums up the current malaise of the national team, then it’s Barry. He doesn’t contribute enough in either direction, and his selection in midfield suggests more a lack of originality than it does a lack of credible alternative options. He’s a middle ground pick, a safe selection – a shirt filler.
While missing Euro 2012 would be desperately unlucky for the player himself, none of the rest of us should be the slightest bit disappointed – his absence will likely force Roy Hodgson’s into making a braver team selection. If, as we’re led to believe, England will revert to playing Wayne Rooney as their sole attacker once the forward’s ban expires, that will leave a space in midfield that needs filling. With no Barry to occupy it, Hodgson will be forced into something different – maybe even the selection of a difference-maker like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
A personal tragedy for Barry? Of course. But a national injury scare? Not at all, and in fact this might be fate dealing England a lucky hand on the eve of their departure for Polkraine.