Written by Danny Ward
When Joey Barton made his move north of the border to join Rangers in the summer, most Burnley fans, myself included, expressed their disappointment at the club having not offered him a new, extended contract. Although it was hard to pin down exactly why he decided to leave after just one season, the rumour floating around at the time was that Burnley were only willing to give him a one year deal, whereas the player wanted to put down roots for a longer period. Whatever the real reason was for his departure, Barton left with plenty of well wishes; during his short spell at Turf Moor he endeared himself to the Clarets faithful, playing a crucial role in the Championship title winning side and earning himself a PFA Team of the Year award in the process, as well as being crowned as the club’s Player of the Year.
Whilst Joey is probably most known for the ‘bad boy’ reputation he has acquired at different stages of his career, at Burnley he thrived under Sean Dyche’s management and amongst a close-knit group who really played as a team, rather than as individuals. His behaviour was exemplary throughout, both on and of the field. However, fast-forward a few months and he was back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons at his new Scottish club; having made only 5 appearances, Rangers suspended Barton for three weeks after a supposed training ground bust up with a coach. The drama didn’t stop there though, as he was then investigated and charged by the Scottish FA for gambling, with the culmination of the saga being the immediate termination of his contract at the beginning of November.
A potential return to the Burnley first team?
Now a free agent, Barton has temporarily started training with the Clarets squad again so he can improve his fitness levels and consider his options. Obviously, if Dyche did choose to resign the midfielder, he would have to wait until the January window before he could officially put pen to paper. But, now that the shape of the squad has altered with a new faces coming in during the summer, would Joey fit in?
Well, what the 4-0 drubbing at West Brom on Monday night made clear is that there is no leader in the middle of the park to rally the players when they go a goal or two behind. Tom Heaton is an excellent captain but someone else is needed further up the field to guide the team. Barton would provide much needed leadership and an experienced head, driving everyone forward and getting stuck in when necessary. While there are perhaps question marks over whether, at 34, he could handle the pace of Premier League football, he would offer an excellent option off the bench, coming on for the last half hour – particularly as Steven Defour has been struggling to complete the full 90 minutes in matches. Plus, with the way Dyche has been setting up using a 4-5-1 formation recently, an extra midfielder wouldn’t go amiss.
He may not be to everyone’s taste, but I’d imagine most Burnley would welcome Joey Barton back with open arms.
What are your thoughts on the Joey Barton situation? Would he be able to deal with Premier League football at his age? Let us know in the comments!
featured image by dom fellowes