Gareth Barry tells TheFA.com that he hopes a chance to parade his ski
Exclusive: Gareth Barry tells TheFA.com that he hopes a chance to parade his skills 'close-up' in front of Sven Goran Eriksson might be enough to convince the England manager that his search for a left-midfielder has now come to an end...
Gareth Barry was at home late eight days ago, preparing to meet up with David Platt's Under-21 squad the next day. Then the phone rang.
"It was Anne [Romilly, the England Team Administrator]. She just said that Mr Eriksson wanted a word with me," recalls Sven-Goran Eriksson's newest recruit as he gets used to his new team-mates and his new surroundings here in Durban.
"Mr Eriksson came on the phone and just asked me if I wanted to join up with the squad and travel out to South Africa.
"I didn't have to think for a second before answering. It's every player's dream to play for England."
Within hours Gareth was in the glare of the England spotlight. He just about had time to train and take part in an Armani photo-shoot before jetting off to South Africa for Thursday's friendly encounter. Gareth has been in immaculate form in what has been a bitter-sweet year for him.
"I'd say that individually I have probably been playing the best football of my career this season. It's just a shame that it's come along in a year when, collectively, we feel we could have done better at Villa.
"I've been playing on the left-hand side of the midfield and, although I've played in defence previously and other people have suggested to me that I might also make a central midfielder, this is where I feel I'd like to stay."
So what does Gareth feel his strengths and weaknesses are as a midfielder?
"My experience as a defender means that I'm comfortable going backwards, which is something you have to do as a midfielder and I would also say that passing is a strong part of my game.
"In terms of improving, I think goalscoring is an area that I need to work on. This season I scored three league goals and one in the cup but really as a midfielder I think I should be looking at contributing eight to ten goals a season."
There also seems to be something else different about Gareth's play this season. He seems to be stronger, having added a new physical dimension to his game.
"Yeah, I've got a little bit more bulky," he acknowledges. "That's due to working hard in the gym and sticking to the programme I've got with the fitness coach at Vila. It wasn't really that anyone said I needed to put on weight, it's just the way that things have worked out but I'm pleased with it."
As well as the staff at his club, Gareth also believes he has someone else to thank for his Senior England call-up.
"David Platt has been amazing for me since he first took the job as Under-21 coach," explains the former Brighton prodigy.
"Even when I wasn't in the first team at Villa he kept faith with me and kept me as captain of the Under-21s. That was a great encouragement for me."
And now, he's here, back in the England fold for the first time in two and half years, what are his aims for the next three games?
"Well you know you're never guaranteed a game with England," admits the ever-maturing 22 year-old.
"So I'll be trying to use training as a chance to impress the manager. Managers can see things close-up in training that they might not otherwise see and hopefully that will work in my favour."
During his time as England coach, the left hand side of the midfield has been one of the recurring questions Sven that has had to ponder. He may just have found the answer.
Gareth Barry was talking to Daniel Freedman
South Africa v England: Match Centre