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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 10, 2007

Impressive Barry prepared for tougher test

After making the most of the freedom of Wembley against Israel, Gareth Barry now fully expects Russia to try to put the squeeze on England.

The Aston Villa captain was handed a first competitive start for his country in almost seven years alongside Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield for the 3-0 victory on Saturday.

The result moved England up into third place in Group E in qualifying for Euro 2008.

Croatia have a three-point lead over Russia, who come to Wembley on Wednesday night one point ahead of their hosts.

Coach Guus Hiddink has declared, 'My team must always go for a win', and Barry is preparing for a much sterner test.

'I knew that playing in the centre of midfield at home to Israel, I was going to get a lot of the ball,' he said.

'It was pretty simple in the end, we moved the ball about quickly and the other boys took the game to them.'

However, Barry warned: 'It will be a lot more difficult against Russia on Wednesday. I expect them to have more of a go at us.

'We will have to be a bit more wary at the back, but we can take confidence from the result against Israel.

'There was a lot of pressure on the lads, and Isreal were here to spoil it, probably for the 0-0, but the early goal settled us down.

'We were confident in ourselves, and realised the win was massive, that anything else was not good enough.

'We believed in ourselves and showed it on the pitch.'

Barry, 26, stepped into the breach following injuries to Owen Hargreaves and Frank Lampard.

It remains to be seen whether the Villa man will retain his place in the starting XI should Manchester United midfielder Hargreaves recover.

Yet now revitalised under Villa boss Martin O'Neill, Barry intends to make the most of a somewhat unexpected, but nevertheless deserved second chance with the national team.

'I felt I was good enough, and age was on my side too,' he said.

'So I never did really give up, but it does enter your head every now and again that your international career is probably over.

'It just goes to show that you can never give up. I knew I was still young enough and playing well enough.

'Sometimes you just have to wait around for your chance to come again.'

Barry has played as a central defender and on the left-hand side of both defence and midfield in his career.

However, a switch to the heart of O'Neill's side has given the player the impetus to make his mark in the England set-up under Steve McClaren.

'I only finished about 10 or 15 games in there last season, and started this season, so I am not over-experienced in there, but I took it on well at the end of last season and now feel very comfortable,' he said.

'I have been playing there for my club and came on against Germany for 35 minutes in a friendly, and did okay there, so I knew I was able to perform in that kind of role.'

Barry added: 'All you can do is put your name in the frame and play as well as you can.

'So especially with the injuries at the moment, it does give the manager another option.'