| Teen defending sensation Gareth Barry
has stated he is keeping his 'feet on the ground' following his new contract
offer from Villa. He is promising to not let it go to his head and
said: "I am pleased that we have opened talks about a new contract - but
at the moment that's all it is. "However, I am hoping that it will be
all done and dusted by Christmas. That would be the ideal present for
"Things have gone great so far but it is still all a learning process for me and I am not getting carried away.''
The new contract is a 5 year deal, as Gregory aims to tie down his superstars on long term contracts. He already faces the prospect of losing goal keeping superstar Mark Bosnich on a free transfer this summer, a year after losing £4mil rated Steve Staunton in the same manner.
The deal, which will time him down till 2003, includes a basic wage of £2,500 per week as well as a £7,500 bonus every time he plays.
Gregory said: "All things being equal Gareth is guaranteed a massive future in the game. I have seen some kids put on a pedestal at 17 and by 19 they have disappeared off the face of the earth.
"But he is different in being more of a down to earth kid, is a quick learner who wants to learn and his progress this season has been tremendous.
"It's quite probable that if David Unsworth had stayed at Villa then Gareth wouldn't have been in the team. I thought David was perfect for the left-hand side as a replacement for Steve Staunton.
"The fact that Gareth has played alongside Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu and Alan Wright has also helped him to get through, but he looks the part in himself.
"Occasionally he will get caught out and there was a game where our coach Steve Harrison was ranting and raving. I said to him: `Harry, he's only 17', but you forget that with the progress he has made.
"Mind you, when I first saw him he was playing in midfield and in the first game against Preston I thought he was rubbish and he hardly got a kick in the whole game.
"You need a different kind of stamina and better awareness in midfield. We moved him to the back and it's become a natural position for him to adapt. He is better with everything in front of him and looks comfortable.''
For young Barry, who isn't even 18 until February this is a massive step forwards in what promises to be an exciting career.