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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

West Brom's Gareth Barry on the cusp of setting new Premier League record: 'I'll know when I've had enough'

The evergreen midfielder is set to make his 633rd appearance in England's top flight against Arsenal on Monday

West Bromwich Albion's Gareth Barry will set a new record for Premier League appearances if he takes to the field against Arsenal. Nick Potts / PA
West Bromwich Albion's Gareth Barry will set a new record for Premier League appearances if he takes to the field against Arsenal. Nick Potts / PA

A new Premier League record appearance record will be set this weekend when Gareth Barry lines up for West Bromwich Albion against Arsenal on Monday.

The evergreen midfielder is set to make his 633rd appearance in England's top flight, surpassing the mark he shares with the retired Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs.

At 36 Barry is one of the division's elder statesmen, having graced Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and his new club West Brom, who he joined in the summer on a free transfer, as well as amassing 53 caps for England.

It was May 2, 1998, and in a fairly non-descript occasion at Hillsborough, Gareth Barry — a 17-year-old defender with floppy dark hair and already a cultured left foot — came on as a 49th-minute substitute for Aston Villa in its 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.

A remarkable, if understated, career was born.

Of his current tally of 632, Barry has started 600 of them. It is a testament to Barry's longevity, adaptability and quality that he has lasted so long in the fast-paced, blood-and-thunder world of English football.

"It's a huge number when you think about it," Barry said ahead of his potentially record-breaking game. "It's gone so quickly."

Barry played 365 league games for Villa, 132 league games for Manchester City, 131 league games for Everton and has featured in four league games for West Brom. Having started out as a center-back equally comfortable at left-back, he is now an out-and-out holding midfielder.

Barry credits his longevity to avoiding serious injury and to support from some now-retired former teammates.

"No one has said, 'What are you doing still playing?'" Barry said. "Everyone said, 'Play as long as possible.' You stop when you stop enjoying it and I'll know when I've had enough and can't keep up with the boys."

Barry was a mainstay of City's FA Cup-winning team in 2011 as well as Premier League title-winning team in 2011/12, shoring up the midfield to allow Yaya Toure to rampage forward.

Barry has slotted seamlessly into his new surroundings at The Hawthorns, where he has replaced another veteran midfielder in Darren Fletcher.

"They're bastions of this sport," West Brom manager Tony Pulis said. "The young players at our football club, I hope they realise how lucky they are to see someone of that quality and that ilk."

Outside of the Premier League era that started in 1992, goalkeeper Peter Shilton holds the appearance record for England's top flight with 849 games. Former Chelsea defender John Hollins has made more outfield appearances in the top flight than any other player, with 714.

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