Aston Villa and England midfielder Gareth Barry believes his team are far improved on the side of 12 months ago.
Barry has contributed three goals in three games to help catapult Villa into fourth place, including one during Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers, but says the stars have been Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The 27-year-old is convinced they have finally done enough to finally force their way into the England set-up.
Barry said: “It was a great result against Blackburn Rovers. We knew we didn’t play very well but to come away with the three points is massive for us at this stage.
“That is the difference between Villa now and the team of 12 months ago - if when we don’t play well, we’re still winning games. Blackburn came here and played very well. The fans would have expected us to roll them over with the form we have been in and we probably got away with it a bit.”
Barry is virtually assured of his place in Fabio Capello’s squad to play Germany in a friendly next month but hopes there may be one or two of his Villa team-mates joining him.
He said: “The England friendly is an ideal opportunity for Ashley and Gabby. I am sure they will have been watched again against Rovers. Hopefully, their chance will come; they deserve it.
“It gives you a bit of a buzz when you are playing for your country and things are going so well. That buzz is also back around Villa.”
Reflecting on his next England chance, Barry said: “I was left out of the England squad for four years and you can’t get those years back so you want to play every opportunity now.”
Meanwhile, Barry hopes all his dreams will be fulfilled at Villa Park now that the team has started to excel and play a part in European competition too. He said: “Hopefully with Villa, the Champions League is a realistic aim now.
“It is certainly more realistic than last season when we were probably talking about it. If we keep talking about it, eventually we are going to find ourselves in the run for a top-four place.
“We’ll fancy ourselves but it is a massive step because that top four of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea has been the top four for a long while. The other big clubs have such a big advantage with the players they have got.
“The pundits say if anyone can break into that top four clubs it will be us but they still don’t back us to get it. It would be nice to prove two or three wrong and make it.”
So is the Hastings-born star enjoying his football again even though his possible move to Liverpool which was the talk of the summer was finally scuppered?
He said: “It is probably the wrong thing to say I am enjoying my football again but it’s been good just to get the whole summer episode out of my system and now I am just concentrating on what I am doing and on playing good football.”