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To Rangers With Love... Joey Barton.

Thursday 26th May 2016
Joey Barton has signed a two-year deal with Rangers after leaving Burnley on a free transfer, after having helped the Clarets gain promotion to the Premier League.

It was whilst supping a few pints in my local Wetherspoons, that we heard a whisper that Burnley were poised to sign Joey Barton. Released a few weeks earlier and now a free Agent, the whispers began to get louder, and just over a week later, it was a confirmed signing!

Initially upon hearing the news, there was a part of me that was just a little unsure of what to expect. This lad has a massive reputation, but a lot of it seemed to revolve around his personal life, rather than his footballing ability. He is one of those players, that always seemed to be loved by his own, but hated in equal measure by fans of the opposition. The last time I had seen him live, was a couple of years earlier - where an alice-banded Barton was smacked between the eyes by a half-full bottle of Coke, which had been tossed at him via a Burnley fan from the James Hargreaves Lower. The incident was met with a roar of approval from the Burnley contingent, and posters of the incident were later all over the Social networks - with headlines such as "Barton smashed off Coke".

Talking of social networks, he's not too shy on there either, as his two million followers plus on Twitter will testify.

His "bad boy" reputation is known beyond football. In 2008, he served 77 days at Her Majesty's Pleasure for common assault and affray during a night out in Liverpool town centre, and in the same year was given a four-month suspended sentence for ABH against Ousmane Dabo, after a training ground incident. He's also been charged three times for violent conduct by the FA, and has been sent off around nine times during his career. I also remember, that a few years ago, West Ham were about to sign him, but after petitions of complaints from the home fans though, the deal collapsed.

To say there were a few eyebrows raised therefore in Burnley Town centre that day, is therefore of no surprise.

What wasn't in doubt, was Barton's footballing ability. His clubs have included Man City and Newcastle in the top flight, and he had also been capped by England.

After he had signed a one-year deal, he was interviewed by the local radio Station, where he talked about his past misdemeanours and how those days were well behind him. He now had some young children to consider and was determined to be a role model towards them. On trust, Sean Dyche was also taking a risk, so if it was worth it for him, then that was good enough for the majority of Burnley fans - the others just had to be convinced - and that was on the Football field.

What wasn't in doubt last September, was that Burnley had a big gaping hole through the middle of the pitch. A hole left, with a bad injury to Dean Marney, which had not been addressed during the previous season. In terms of football, Barton was the perfect choice. We needed somebody who could win the ball back, play it around and put in a shift for the team.

After a couple of cameo appearances from the bench and after regaining full fitness, Joey Barton became a permanent fixture in the side. His hard work, application and endeavour was on show for the rest of the season. In all the years that I have watched football, I have never seen a player who has ever got as much stick, both on the pitch and on the terraces. He took a lot of meaty challenges, and maybe got away with a few of his own - but his reputation for being a "thug" seem to be in the distant past.

Over the season, we have grown to love Joey as one of our own. He definitely gave his whole for the Burnley cause over the season. Tough tackling, combative and no shortage of skill was on show each and every game. He was chosen for the Championship Team of The Season, and won many of the Supporters Player of the Season Awards.

This was a tremendous Season for Burnley.  The league was won  by four points and 23 games undefeated speak volumes. But for me though, Joey Barton played the biggest role. Without him, Burnley would not have achieved what they did.

It was a surprise, but certainly not a shock when I heard that he was going to sign for Rangers. He was after more security then Burnley could offer, and at 33 years old, he will probably see this time at Rangers as one last swan song. He may even get the opportunity to play in the Champions League!

All the best Joey for the future. There are not many players who could leave an impact like you have, and from myself and the rest of the Burnley fans, we all wish you the very best of luck.

James Mortimer
Hi, I'm an avid follower of Burnley FC, having reached the highs, and the very lows.

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