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Within minutes of the final whistle at Middlesbrough, as we all celebrated our promotion back to the Premier League, Ashley Barnes, who had opened the scoring on the night with his fiftieth league goal for us, confirmed he would be leaving at the end of the season.

Currently our longest serving player, his contract expires this summer and it’s probably not been the best kept secret that his time as a Claret would be coming to an end after over nine years since arriving from Brighton in a £450,000 deal.

With Charlie Austin set to move on in the summer of 2013, Sean Dyche had targeted Barnes as a potential replacement. To be honest, the most I knew about him was through him being the second Brighton player sent off against us in the first twelve minutes of the game we won on our first ever visit to the Amex Stadium in December 2011.

It didn’t happen; we couldn’t afford him but a share offer at the beginning of 2014 brought in the money that allowed Dyche to pay his first transfer fee as Burnley manager. He was going to be cover for Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, our only strikers, and how important that became when both suffered injuries towards the end of the season.

Barnes stepped up. He scored in the 3-0 win at Charlton, then netted the only goal when we won at Barnsley before scoring that wonderful team goal on the day we clinched promotion against Wigan on the Turf.

He’d very much arrived and he became a regular member of the team in the next season, featuring in all but three of our games, although the season ended badly for him when he suffered a ruptured ACL in the final game at Aston Villa.

That all but ruled him out of the next season but, with promotion secured again, he was very much back in the team and was again a key player for us as we reached Europe. Never a prolific goalscorer, that 2017/18 season saw him score nine league goals which he bettered with twelve in the following season.

Hit by an injury in the 2019/20 season, and that after making a good start to the season, he didn’t play at all after New Year’s Day. He returned but was in and out of the side and last season, as we suffered relegation, he started just eight of our league games all season.

With Jay Rodriguez not fully fit, he kicked off this season in the team. He was in the starting line-up for the first three games before giving way, after which he didn’t start again until that fateful day at Sunderland when he had a poor first half that saw him withdrawn at half time.

I spoke out about the abuse he’d received that day in my match report. Some on the message board suggested he was a spent force and didn’t fit in with the way we played. That all changed four games later when he returned to the side to score twice in the local derby. It wasn’t just the goals that day; he was outstanding for us.

Even so, he was back on the bench for five of the next six games. Since, kicking off with the home game against West Brom, he’s been in the starting line-up for every game other than when he missed out at Blackpool.

He’s become a crowd favourite again with some outstanding performances and, at times, he’s looked as though he’s been a mentor for some of younger players.

Whatever happens now with Barnesy, he’s proved to be a superb signing for us and he will leave having equalled Michael Duff’s record of winning three promotions to the Premier League, even though his time on the pitch in the first two of them was limited.

It was so fitting that he should play so well and score at Middlesbrough to become just our thirtieth player to reach a half century of league goals and on the day we could celebrate that promotion.

He’s 33 now, and as we step back up then maybe this is the time to move forward without him. He should have no problem finding a new club.

I know that I’ll miss him.

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