Wednesday 22 November 2017

Barton: I'm joining Gers to be best player in Scotland

Barton: New Rangers signing. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
Barton: New Rangers signing. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

Roddy Forsyth

Joey Barton wears false modesty about as easily as he would respect a vow of silence. Nevertheless, the new Rangers signing was in ebullient form at his Ibrox unveiling, even by his standards.

"I feel I was the best midfielder in the Championship last year. I think my performances over 46 games proved that," said the 33-year-old former Manchester City, Newcastle, QPR and Burnley man.

"There are some good players up here, but I'm not coming to be another player. I'm coming up here to be the best player in the country.

"I didn't want to come to Scotland as many people have done in the past when their best days are behind them.

"I know for sure I can compete in the Premier League, I think I've proved that last year and - weirdly - in the relegation season at QPR."

The immediate aftermath of Saturday's Scottish Cup final was another reminder that Glasgow is not the football equivalent of the Sea of Tranquility but, although Barton's minders prohibited him from speaking about that, there could be no avoiding the fact that the bookies had instantly offered odds on him being sent off in his first Old Firm match.

"I was in the PFA team of the year, the Football League team of the year, I was Burnley's Player of the Year, won the league, went 23 games undefeated - but I never got suspended and that was the biggest achievement of them all," said the man who has twice been convicted of criminal acts of violence.

"I understand it. I've got a rap sheet. I can't get away from it. I can't say 'Oh, I've reinvented myself'. That's not me. The reality of it is that I behaved inappropriately at times in the past as a player. You mature.

"For a long period in my career, everything else was a sideshow that deflected from what a good player I was - and still think I am.

"I've been on Question Time, I've given political opinions, I've been outspoken. Then you come away from that thinking 'I just want to concentrate on football'.

"I wanted to show everyone I could do it, because all they thought I was before then was a Neanderthal who went out into the city centre, got drunk and had fights. I did fit that stereotype for a while."

Barton is relishing the Old Firm games, in particular.

"The world, in footballing terms, does stop for massive games. It is great for Scottish football that it is back but that isn't the prime motivation for me coming here," he said.

"I could have gone to the MLS or China, or somewhere more lucrative; if I wanted to down tools, there are easier places to go than Scotland.

"I am fully aware that this isn't going to be an easy ride. There are going to be a lot of challenges that you don't get south of the border.

"With Brendan Rodgers going to Celtic it's hopefully the start of Scottish football getting back to where it's been for decades.

"Second place is nothing here. Second in the cup final is nothing, second in the league is nothing. Everything is about winning and there is an enormous pressure and responsibility attached to that.

"But for a competitive animal like myself that is heaven." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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