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Aston Villa Longest Serving Player 2007
"Under John Gregory, Barry looked an England cap of the future but he suffered in the end for not having a defined position" In summer 2005 Squarefootball looked at the longest serving player at each Premiership club. Now we revisit the subject to see what has changed and who has moved on. Back in 2005 Aston Villa had a modern rarity on their books- a home town player with over a decade of service at just one club. That was midfielder Lee Hendrie, who received his first professional contract from Villa way back in 1994. During his time at the club he won a single England cap but also found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons at times.
Under David O'Leary, Hendrie had periodically fallen out of favour and the situation didn't really improve under Martin O'Neill. Two loan spells at Stoke City re-invigorated his career and placed him in the shop window and recently he severed his 13 year association by moving to Sheffield United.
With Hendrie gone, skipper Gareth Barry takes over as longest serving player. He gained his first pro contract at Villa Park in 1997 and his career has gone in an opposite trajectory to Hendrie.
Under John Gregory, Barry looked an England cap of the future but he suffered in the end for not having a defined position. In a 5-3-2 formation there were opportunities as wing back, central defender or even midfielder but in a 4-4-2 Barry's options narrowed. After an early call-up to England squads he drifted right out of the picture despite England's left side problems.
However under O'Leary and now O'Neill he has established himself as a midfielder and an inspirational one who can get forward with effect. Barry has stamina and defensive qualities to go with his progressive intent. It seems unlikely that he'll be allowed to go anywhere soon such is his status at the club.
While Barry completes a decade in the squad another long servant has moved on. Jlloyd Samuel is a contemporary of Barry who came on the staff a year after him. Like Barry he reached England squads but tantalisingly, he never won a cap.
In the past couple of years his form at full back has declined and he's struggled to be selected - O'Neill chose to play Wilfrid Bouma ahead of him in 2006/07. This summer Samuel moved on to Bolton in an effort to get his career back on track
Another man who signed in the 1990s is Mark Delaney. The Welsh international has been Villa’s undisputed first choice right back when fit and also does a useful job in central defence. However, he didn't play a single game for the club last season due to knee problems.
With Aaron Hughes sold and Phil Bardsley's loan over, the manager is almost certain too look for right back cover which could affect Delaney's long term future. At least the player is close to returning after surgery.
As Hendrie and Samuel have moved on, Liam Ridgewell becomes third in line. The London-born defender was taken on in August 2001 and made his debut in November 2002.
There is speculation about whether he forms part of O'Neill's long term plans- so coupled with Delaney’s injury worries, Barry could be left as Villa's, most senior player by as much as 6 years by the end of 2007/08.
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