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'That moment stands out for me probably more than my Premier League debut for Arsenal'

Graham Barrett is the guest on Episode Four of The Football Family.

ALTHOUGH HIS CAREER was cut short by injury, Graham Barrett managed to tick some notable boxes before he was forced to call it a day.

A couple of months after turning 18, he made his debut in the Premier League as a member of an Arsenal team that included the likes of Tony Adams, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars. He also marked his first senior outing for Ireland by scoring in a win against Finland.

PA-338422 Graham Barrett pictured during his Premier League debut for Arsenal against Leicester City in December 1999. Source: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

Both achievements are valued dearly by Barrett, yet neither topped the list when he was asked to recall his favourite moment from his playing career during his appearance as the guest on Episode Four of The Football Family.

In the summer of 1998, the striker from Dublin was a member of Brian Kerr’s Ireland U16 team who defeated Italy in the final to win the European Championships. Twenty-one years later, the memories of that tournament in Scotland remain vivid for Barrett.

“The team and the spirit that Brian created — we’re still all in touch on a WhatsApp group,” he explains. “We didn’t just do something special in terms of winning a European Championship, we created relationships that are going to last a lifetime.

“That was a special moment for all of us. That moment stands out for me probably more than making my Premier League debut for Arsenal at 18; maybe even more than playing for Ireland at senior level, although that was huge for me.”

During that U16 European Championship, Barrett began to develop a particularly strong friendship with one member of the Ireland squad. Many years later, on Liam Miller’s wedding day, Barrett did the honours as his best man. 

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inpho_00015907 The Ireland U16s before the '98 European Championship final, with Barrett (front row, far left) beside Liam Miller. Source: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

“I roomed with Liam in Scotland, that’s how we got to know each other. We became closer over the years and spent a lot of big moments together, his family and my family,” he says of the former Manchester United midfielder, who passed away last year after battling cancer.

“When you ask what moment stands out, the U16 stuff would stand out heavily because I met some really unbelievable people, Liam being primarily probably one of the most important in my life. Obviously I miss him.” 

On the latest instalment of The Football Family, Barrett — who now represents several prominent Irish footballers in his role as an agent — opened up about the highs and lows of a career that ended when he was 28 due to a debilitating knee injury.

Episode Four of the podcast is now available to our membership. Details of how you can become a member for just €5 per month — or €42 for an entire year — are available here.

About the author:

Paul Dollery

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