Burnley midfielder Joey Barton made a perfect start to life back in East Lancashire on Saturday – and says he is loving life at what he described as a ‘special’ football club.
The 34-year-old came off the bench to stroke home a 78th-minute winner against Southampton, in what was his first Premier League appearance in just over 600 days, and his maiden league appearance after re-joining the club at the beginning of the month.
And following an ill-fated spell north of the border with Glasgow Rangers, Barton expressed his delight at the opportunity of being reunited with the club which he helped surge to the Championship title last season.
Barton admitted that "sometimes you go to clubs, and for want of trying it just doesn’t fit, or it doesn’t work out," but added that "at some places, it’s just seamless, and I love playing for this football club."
The former Manchester City and Newcastle United man also insisted he ‘intends to enjoy every minute of it, because I realised that by not being here just how special this club is.’
"To come back and do that was special"
Barton was also quick to heap praise on his teammates for Saturday’s win, which sees the Clarets leapfrog their opponents into the top half of the table.
He believes "it’s never been about goals with me; it’s about the team’s performance and the team winning," adding "it’s a collective effort, and it’s nice to get the win and a clean sheet… and to be back here."
The veteran midfielder was a 73rd-minute substitution, and with only his third touch had steered the Clarets in front courtesy of a deflected free-kick from 25 yards out, and post-match Barton offered his thoughts on the strategy behind the set-piece.
When sizing up the free-kick, Barton advised that "from that range… you’ve really got to work him [goalkeeper Fraser Forster] and hit the target. Sometimes going over the wall is the perfect height for him."
Barton also added that he had "moved Jeff [Hendrick] in from the side. It wasn’t the cleanest free-kick I’ve ever hit in my life," but said "it means a lot to me personally, and to come back to Turf Moor and to do that… was incredibly special."