Dynamic Barry backs City to go all the way in title race Published on: 05-02-2014

This was the moment when Hamza Barry really announced himself to Maltese football.

With the score tied at 1-1 and Birkirkara exerting tremendous pressure on Valletta, Barry swooped on a loose ball after the Stripes had partially cleared an Edmond Agius free-kick before spreading his body to unleash a rasping drive that arrowed past the diving Justin Haber and into the far corner.

Ecstatic, Barry ran towards the City fans before being mobbed by his team-mates. His 63rd-minute strike was the turning point of Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash as Valletta, needing a win to step up their pursuit of Birkirkara, held on to secure three priceless points.

Before signing for Valletta in the close season, Barry, at 19 already a Gambia international, was something of an unknown quantity for Maltese football but the powerful midfielder quickly established himself as a first-choice player.

A knee injury jolted Barry’s progress as he was out for over two months but his tenacious display on Sunday, capped with a stunning goal, confirmed that he is back to his best.

“To be quite honest, I’m happy with the way we played on Sunday,” Barry told Times of Malta.

“I think the best side won. I’m delighted because we did our job well. We played against the champions who were six points ahead of us before the game. It was important for us to win as we are now only three points behind them.”

Barry was understandably pleased that his goal had clinched the win for Valletta.

“I was really happy,” Barry said.

“I scored at a very important time as Birkirkara were in control. I will try to keep scoring, I hope there will be many more goals from me.”

The value of Valletta’s success on Sunday grows further when considering that, if the two front runners win their last game of the first phase this weekend, Birkirkara’s lead at the top will be whittled down to just one point when the teams’ tallies are halved before the start of the Championship Pool.

Although Valletta still have plenty of work to do to overhaul this strong Birkirkara team in the title race, their victory on Sunday has gone some way towards lifting the erstwhile flailing spirits of their fans.

It has also strengthened Barry’s optimism about Valletta’s title chances.

“I’m very optimistic,” Barry said.

“I’m confident that, by the end of the league, we will be celebrating... we will certainly do our best to win the title.”

Young, energetic and skillful, Barry has the potential to become the kind of box-to-box midfielder most clubs, at all levels, crave to have in their team.

In his early days at Valletta, Barry was mostly used as an attacking midfielder but he also im-pressed coach Mark Miller when deployed in a deeper role.

On Sunday, Barry formed part of an advanced midfield trio alongside Abdelkarim Nafti and Roderick Briffa and his performance underlined his versatility.

“I think I can play both roles in midfield,” Barry said.

“I like an advanced role but I can also defend. At Valletta, we play with two holding midfielders and this system suits me. “I love to push forward from midfield but as a midfielder, it’s important to know how to play both roles.”

City choice

Barry was plying his trade with Gambia Ports Authority before Valletta came calling last summer.

He admitted he knew nothing about Maltese football when his agent, Juan G. Aguilar, informed him of Valletta’s approach but he is glad to have grabbed the opportunity to join the City club.

“It all came through thanks to my manager,” Barry said.

“When I came here to join Valletta, I felt comfortable straightaway.

“At the time, I had no knowledge about Valletta but I started to look for more information on the internet. I realised that I was coming to the biggest club in Malta. I love the fans.

“I like it here because I’m playing for a great club.”

Maltese football may still be light years behind the top European leagues but Barry believes that the level is improving. “It’s good,” Barry said. “Maltese football is developing well and I believe it will continue to get better in the years to come, especially if more clubs become professional.”

Barry has a bright future ahead of him and his impact in the Maltese league will surely enhance his prospects of moving to a more lucrative championship in mainland Europe.

I’m confident that, by the end of the league,we will be celebrating... we will certainly do our best to win the title -

Hamza Barry

“My ambition is to play in a bigger league,” Barry remarked.

“I want to play at the highest level possible but I’m settled here.

“I’m still young and I want to learn. Playing for Valletta has been an exciting experience so far. I’m learning... I have a very good coach who is trying to teach me many things and my team-mates are also helping me a lot. “They appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.”

There have been reports that Barry was a target for La Liga club Getafe during the January transfer window but he was unwilling to discuss the matter.

“I can neither confirm nor deny this report,” Barry, who spent some time training with Villarreal in the past, replied.

“My manager has told me that other European clubs are monitoring my progress but I’m not thinking about it.

“I’m just concentrating on doing well for Valletta and improving my game.”

Over the past five years, Valletta’s stated objective has been to make their mark in European competitions, especially the Champions League.

They have reached the second qualifying round of the Europa League and Champions League since president Victor Sciriha took over the reins of the club but qualification to the group stage has remained elusive.

Barry has seen enough to suggest that Valletta are not far from making that breakthrough.

“For sure, Maltese clubs can do well in Europe,” Barry said.

“Valletta can become the force club and we can reach new heights in the Champions League and Europa League.

“I don’t think it’s going to take us a long time to become competitive in Europe.”

Valletta have been in the news lately over their decision to appoint Andre Paus and Ted van Leuween as head coach and technical director respectively as well as signing a raft of new foreign players in the last week of the January transfer window.

Although it’s too early to assess the impact these changes will have on the team, the signs look encouraging as Paus signalled his arrival by helping Valletta beat Birkirkara while Georgian goalkeeper Nukri Revishvili and Nigeria-born striker Abayomi Owonikoko gave a good account of themselves on their debut.

Barry pained a rosy picture of the atmosphere at Valletta.

“Anything that can make Valletta better is good,” Barry said.

“All is well at the club.” It’s largely thanks to Barry’s crucial contribution on Sunday that Valletta are looking ahead with optimism.

Source - Times of Malta