If four West Bromwich Albion players walk into a taxi in Barcelona, do they walk off with the taxi? That appears to be what’s at issue in a bizarre soccer story around WBA’s warm-weather training session camp in Spain this week. Sky Sports’ Lyall Thomas and James Dale have a piece on how players Jonny Evans (the club captain), Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill (seen left to right above) have issued a statement where they identify themselves as “the players involved in an incident in Spain,” and “apologise to our team-mates, the head coach, the club and especially the supporters for the events which have been the subject of widespread and negative publicity,” but the main thing they spell out is only that they apologize for breaking curfew.
As per Reuters’ Richard Martin, though, there may be more to it than that:
A source from the Catalan police in the city, the Mossos d‘Esquadra, said on Friday: ”There were four people who wanted to go out in the city centre.
”Everything was closed so they got a taxi to a McDonald’s by the Barcelona port. At some moment the driver left the car for some reason and the four people took control of the car.
“They eventually returned it to their hotel and we got a call from the receptionist saying they had parked outside the hotel. This happened at 5.30am. The taxi was returned to its owner at 8am,” the police source said.
“The four people were not arrested but they are under investigation. They were called into the police station about a crime of vehicle theft and made statements. Their statements have been sent to a investigative judge.”
That certainly doesn’t seem great. And the club is conducting their own investigation. However, while manager Alan Pardew was unimpressed, he said at a news conference Friday that the team is already shifting their focus to this weekend’s FA Cup match with Southhampton. “They broke a curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel let down by that. But we still got our training in. Our focus now is on the game.” This did lead to a lot of funny Twitter commentary, though, especially when it came to the usually strait-laced Barry:
Trying to get my head round Gareth Barry stealing a taxi. The consummate professional finally snapping like balsa wood. Can’t help feel that all bets are off now. James Milner in a porno. Kevin Phillips murdering someone. In some ways, we must all bear the blame.
— Ben Machell (@ben_machell) February 16, 2018
When Gareth Barry nicked that car, bet he put his seatbelt on and used the indicators to pull out.
— The Bertieful South (@BertiefulSouth) February 16, 2018
The world’s most professional man, Gareth Barry, has worked with Alan Pardew for 5 mins and is robbing taxis bladdered in Barcelona, 2 days before a cup match.
— Soren Lorensen (@stamp_1878) February 16, 2018
This is how I am picturing the act of Gareth Barry stealing a taxi pic.twitter.com/341miXjFJY
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) February 16, 2018
First exciting thing Gareth Barry has ever done
— Thomas Petch (@ThomasPetch) February 16, 2018
In any case, Martin reports that this is unlikely to lead to a trial, as most similar cases are settled with a fine. But still, this is a bizarre set of circumstances, and one that doesn’t make the club look good. The training abroad was supposed to be a benefit for them, described as “mid-winter warm-weather training, in an attempt to build team spirit.” Well, that’s certainly one way to build team spirit. But hey, it may lead to less people calling Barry boring.