15 Jan Barton not finished yet
Burnley’s Joey Barton admits he is fuelled by those who said he was finished following his Rangers nightmare.
Two months after the Gers cut ties with their midfielder after a dreadful stint north of the border, Barton marked his first appearance in England’s top flight in 601 days by coming off the bench to score a late free-kick as Burnley defeated Southampton 1-0.
It has been another season of peaks and troughs for the one-time England cap, though there had been only lowlights when the 34-year-old was in Glasgow, where he played just eight times before a training ground bust-up led to a drawn-out exit.
His next destination was a familiar one, back to the Burnley fold, and though they gambled on a player who turned down their new deal in the summer, and one who is potentially facing a Football Association ban for alleged betting breaches, Barton repaid some of Sean Dyche’s faith with his match-winning contribution at Turf Moor.
“I feel I’m in a better place physically and mentally,” he said.
“I’m a lot more hungry because people have written me off. I’m a lot more humble because the club didn’t have to show this faith in me.
“It hasn’t been an easy couple of months as you can imagine. There are not that many players who take that route of going to Scotland, it not working out, and before you know it, it’s January and you’re back playing in the Premier League and scoring the winner. Even I didn’t think that was possible.
“Sometimes things just work out funny. Football is a funny old game.
“The amount of people who wrote me off after what happened in Scotland…n ot many people make it back after it not going to plan in the SPL. They don’t really come back and hit the ground running in the Premier League. Fortunately, I don’t really believe in what’s written about me: good, bad or indifferent. I just keep on doing my own thing.”
Eight months have passed since Barton and his Burnley colleagues were parading the Championship title around town and while his team-mates have continued to experience joy, the midfielder can point to nothing but gloom since he left Lancashire.
The Rangers chance was one he felt he could not pass up, though, and reflecting on the experience is something Barton is not ready to do yet.
“I don’t really do regrets,” he added.
“If you go through the rollercoaster of my life, I don’t really focus on the past. It’s probably my greatest strength and my greatest weakness at the same time.
“I just keep pushing forward. If I focussed on the past too much, I wouldn’t do what I’ve done in my career because there’s so much nonsense that goes on around me. You just have to keep believing in what you are about.
“There’s a conversation for another day about what went on. I’m not standing here saying, ‘That’s two fingers up to anybody’. Life’s too short for that. I just feel incredibly privileged and humble to be given the opportunity to be back playing for this football club.”
And all has been forgiven at Turf Moor, where Barton was afforded a hero’s return before the stadium erupted when his free-kick found its way past Fraser Forster.
“People forget I left this club so they would have been within their rights to boo me,” Barton admitted.
“That reception makes me incredibly humble and I was just so proud to come on and receive that.
“Sometimes at football clubs, it just fits. From the minute I’ve walked into this football club, it just works. They understand me and I understand them.”