Aston Villa’s Glenn Whelan and West Bromwich Albion’s Gareth Barry, a former Villan, could have been some of the key players in the impending play-off games should the two sides face each-other. This now looks unlikely due to Barry needing an operation.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
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As the play-offs currently stand – it’s likely that Aston Villa will be facing West Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion for a spot in the play-off final at Wembley this May, over two legs.

Both sides have had a number of exemplary players this season, showing exactly why the Sky Bet Championship can be one of the most exciting leagues in the world.

The likes of Dwight Gayle and Tammy Abraham have scored a number of goals for both sides, so it’s sure to be an exciting match-up if it is the case. There’s also the matter of former Villan Sam Johnstone in the West Bromwich Albion net – who has experience of the play-off semi and final after falling at the final hurdle with Aston Villa last year.

But, it was that there would be two midfielders with Villa ties, one of whom is still at the club, that would be major factors in how either leg pans out. And they’d both be the oldest players for their sides. This, however, is now looking unlikely due to an injury to Gareth Barry.

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Glenn Whelan

Thirty-five year old Glenn Whelan has amassed 1817 minutes of football for Aston Villa this season – at the time of writing – and lead the side out as captain at Villa Park in the sides 2-1 win against Bristol City.

He boasts an average match rating of 6.54 over thirty-four appearances, which does not really show the impact that Glenn Whelan has had during the run that has seen Aston Villa come ever-so-close to cementing their play-off position.

The veteran midfielder boasts an average 86% pass success rate over all of his games this season, and makes near enough 40 passes per game – not bad for someone that many fans considered “past it”.

He also makes a minimum of one key tackle and one key clearance per game on average, meaning that he has just as big as an effect on the attacking phase of play as the defensive. 

The Irish international can often be considered to be dictating the tempo of the play from his holding midfielder role, and has managed to score one goal – a strike against Middlesbrough away – and assist three during the season.

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Gareth Barry

The former Aston Villa midfield maestro, perhaps playing just below the best football of his career in his time at Villa Park, now plies his trade at rivals West Bromwich Albion. 

Since leaving the club, he’s gone on to win multiple trophies, including the Premier League title, as well as holding the record for the most Premier League appearances.

Earlier in the season, before Glenn Whelan hit the fine form that he is currently in, Aston Villa fans were clamouring for a player like Barry, who at the age of thirty-eight didn’t even have to run an obscene amount to have a major impact on the game that saw West Bromwich Albion beat us at Villa Park.

Barry has played in seven games less than Whelan, and amassed nearly 500 minutes less football. In this time, he’s racked up a 6.7 average match rating, a pass success percentage of 80.2% and scored one goal whilst providing one assist.  

Defensively, he’s averaged 1.5 tackles a game and one clearance per game, whilst making around 37.5 passes per game on average.

The Veterans Could’ve Made the Difference

Both of the above players of course have links with Aston Villa, whether in the past or currently, and could prove to be defining characters within any play-off games should they happen.

With Whelan enjoying a lengthy spell in the squad, and even captaining the side against Bristol City, it could be likely that the Irishman is the one to be the key difference of the two however, especially as Barry hasn’t played for West Bromwich Albion since their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Leeds United – which is down to an injury that may see him miss out on any play-off games.

People often say that football is a youthful game, but both of these players are proving their doubters wrong at their prospective clubs, and both sets of fans would have been watching keenly to see if they could have had a positive influence on the game.


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