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Gareth Barry may hold the Premier League appearances record but he has some way to go to match these guys

Tuesday 3rd October 2017
Gareth Barry recently made his 633rd Premier League appearance setting a new record for the competition. A marvellous achievement rightly honoured by fans, media and players alike. However, in terms of the history of English football, Barry is playing catch up with the following players:

Peter Shilton

In December 1996 Peter Shilton kept his 333 clean sheet in Leyton Orients 2-0 home win versus Brighton. More significantly the game marked Shilton's 1,000 football league appearance at the grand old age of 47.
Shilton would go on to make an all-time record 1,005 league appearances of which 849 were in England's top flight, Division 1. Based on a 38 game Premier League season, Barry would need another 5/6 seasons of regular first-team football to match Shilton's record.

Starting out at Leicester City as World Cup winner, Gordon Banks understudy, Shilton played for eleven clubs in a career that lasted over 30 years.  He also holds the record for England caps with 125 the 124th of which came in that epic 1990 world cup semi-final defeat to West Germany.

Ray Clemence

Another that proves goalkeepers have that extra longevity over their outfield teammates. Clemence made 758 league appearances with 710 of these coming in Division1.

For much of his career, Clemence would play at the very top level. He was Liverpool's number 1 during the 1970's. A period that saw the club dominate domestic and European football. During this period Clemence would play in three European Cup finals (all ending with winner's medals) and be an ever-present in a side that won five league championships.

Including cup competitions, Clemence represented Liverpool on 665 occasions keeping amazing 323 clean sheets.

On leaving Liverpool at 33 years old, Clemence enjoyed a further seven years and 240 league appearances for Tottenham before retiring to embark on a long and successful coaching career.

Alan Ball

Remembered for his role in English football's greatest hour, World Cup winner Ball would make 745 league appearances scoring 168 goals.

His world cup fame came early in his career, as Ball enjoyed success at both Everton and Arsenal during the 1970's, winning a league championship in 1970 as part of Everton's famous midfield trilogy including Colin Harvey and Howard Kendal.

A tenacious and hard-working central midfielder Ball occupied much the same area of the pitch as Barry. His record of 632 top flight appearances is particularly impressive when you consider that it came in the days of pre-match steaks and post-match pints.  A time when yoga was for housewives and the game was much more physical.

In addition to his playing career, Ball also went on to manage 666 games with seven clubs.

Billy Bonds  

Bonzo was a one-club man. A loyal servant to West Ham United and the clubs record appearance holder with a total of 799 appearances.

A tough, uncompromising central defender, Bonds was arguably the greatest player not to have been capped by England. His first of 663 West Ham league appearances came in 1967 in the opening game of the 1967/68 season and the last at Southampton in 1988.

549 of those West Ham games came in the 1st Division and included league, FA, and European cup final appearances.

Bonds went on to manage West Ham for four seasons including an FA Cup semi-final and lead the club to a 13th place finish in the Premier League.

Tony Ford

Not a household name by any means and not one of his appearances came in the English top division but Tony Fords 931 league games is a football league record for an outfield player.

Spanning just over 20 years Ford made over 100 appearances for four different clubs the most being 423 over two spells at Grimsby Town.

Fortunate with injuries and playing at a consistent level that made him a regular starter with each club. If you include cup appearances Ford (along with Graham Alexander) is one of only two English outfield players to have surpassed 1,000 games.

Can Barry be beaten?

Of the players still playing in the Premier League, Michael Carrick leads the way with 479 appearances but these are becoming increasingly rare at Manchester United. Jermaine Defoe (Bournemouth) and Wayne Rooney (Everton) look better bets at 468 and 460 respectively. Both are still regulars although both would need to play regularly over the next 4/5 seasons before threatening Barry's record. A big ask.

It seems that Barry's record will remain untouched for many years to come. A fantastic achievement.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently trying to swap a career in finance with one in football writing. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I currently have a weekly column on Norwich City website - 'My Football Writer' as well as writing book reviews on 'Its Round and Its White'.

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