Gary Barr was born into a family of Birmingham City supporters but, after watching Villa beat the Blues in 1978, he promptly saw the light, pledged allegiance to the claret and blue, and became a Villan for life. Sensible lad! He’s never wavered since, and has seen his team through highs (champions of Europe!) and lows (relegation), somehow holding on to a strong sense of optimism in the process.
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Portsmouth, UK, but moved to Kings Heath, then Northfield (both in Birmingham) when I was 6 or 7. I came to the U.S. in 2002 and have been here ever since, having left the rain and grey firmly behind me! I now live in Ridgefield, Connecticut, though am literally in the process of moving to the east coast of Florida—slowly getting warmer and warmer as I age! I’m the chief product officer for a New York-based financial-analytics software company. Who knew after attending Harborne Elementary?
How and when did you choose Villa?
My dad was a fervent Birmingham City supporter, as were the family around me—they even gave me a bloody blue-and-white teddy for Christmas in 1969! They took me to as many games at St Andrews as possible when I was a kid. Then, in October 1978, Villa came and beat City 1-0 and my dad was so upset, I decided there and then I had to support the Villa. I always was the black sheep in the family! I was 10 and so started a 35-year love affair—I have seen the ups and the downs and was a season ticket holder for a number of years before I came to the U.S.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
Without a doubt, Rotterdam on a spring evening in 1982. I was 14, so I watched the match live (on ITV!) with the great Barry Moore commentating. He uttered those immortal words: “Shaw, Williams, prepared to adventure down the left. There’s a good ball played in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be! It is! Peter Withe!” and I was on top of the world. Lets not forget the Bayern team we played that night had some of the greatest footballers of that or any time: Augenthaler, Rummenigge, Hoeness, Breitner, Müller, etc., who were all established West German legends. And they got their backsides walloped by a bunch of home-grown Villains—a memory I will always cherish.
What was your most painful moment?
Losing 2-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday in 1987, a defeat that confirmed relegation. We had gone from European Champions to relegation fodder in less than 5 years. Horrific. And truth be told, we deserved it: that team was young and talked up, but on the field it was a mess. But I always have been an optimist, and some good did come from it : Graham Taylor arrived and it was a swift promotion back to our rightful place in the top tier.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat (or beat again) this year?
Well we can’t beat them again because we already played them twice—but Chelsea. There is simply nothing, absolutely nothing, nil, nowt, nada about them, they are just the worst form of a football club I have ever had the displeasure to watch over the years. Bottom line: a lack of class.
Fabian Delph. A legend in the making if he can stay fit, stays with the club, and continues to learn and work hard. And I love the fact that a team can potentially be built around him. Let’s hope.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
I have to cheat—I have two that I can’t separate. The first is Paul McGrath. Everyone has already said it but the man was a rock and one of the most gifted footballers I ever saw live. To call him a legend is an understatement. The second is Dennis Mortimer. Hard-working, never grabbed the headlines, but was the dynamo and captain during our greatest years—an inspiration. I don’t think we have had a captain like him since.
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
Ha! I’m a top fan, of course! My best qualities, I think, are patience and perspective—I rarely snap to judgement or write things off without trying to understand the bigger picture. Many know I am a big fan of what is going on at Villa these past two years under Paul Lambert, largely because I think when one puts it into perspective, its as exciting a time as many I have seen. Yes, the performances at home have been dire on the whole, but something good is emerging and I am excited to see it play out over the next couple years. My worst quality is that I turn the TV off when games are tight. It drives me nuts watching and I prefer to set the DVR, see the result, and then watch without the stress!
Where do you usually watch games?
On the couch. See my picture above.
What are you usually drinking?
Whiskey—on the couch!
Which non-Villa player, past or present, do you most wish had worn the claret and blue?
There are a few: Lionel Messi (best player in the world for me); Trevor Francis (I know people won’t like that but, as a young kid taken to St. Andrews, I saw him as the first $1m player and he was electric—shame he is such a tw#t these days!); and Bobby Moore (well, who wouldn’t right?). In the future, I want my boy (pictured in his first Villa outfit) to be captain—please god, please!!!!!