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I suppose that for any footballer to leave a club and know that he’ll be remembered by those he left behind must surely be just how he would want to do it. That’s certainly going to be the case with Joey Barton who today opted to sign a two year deal with Rangers and switch to the Scottish Premiership from our Premier League.

It’s been a whirlwind. He was a Burnley player for just nine months and there were questions asked by many when he walked in. I think it is fair to say there are no questions left now, just answers that he’s given us all the way to the Football League Championship and a place in next season’s Premier League.

It all came out of the blue. The 2015/16 season had kicked off with two draws and a defeat in the league and a Capital One Cup knockout. As preparations were underway for the home game against Brentford, a game that gave us our first win of the season, we snatched Andre Gray from them and speculation started to mount of a potential move to bring in Barton.

During the following week, for a couple of days, the rumours seemed to switch from him to Kevin Nolan and back again but the evening of Thursday 27th August 2016 ended all that speculation when Barton signed until the end of the season.

Some thought Sean Dyche was mad to gamble on him but, when asked about how he would handle him, he simply said: “He’s 32, he’s not 18, he’s not a kid.”

What Dyche did say about him was:  “I’m delighted that we have Joey on board. He was very respectful when speaking about our club at the end of last season and during the summer. We had many conversations and he made it clear he was very interested in what we are about and that coming here was something he would consider.

1516 burnley joey barton 02 800“He is a player who is in demand and who others think highly of. I know there is other stuff in his life and character, but on the pitch I think everyone speaks well of him and he is certainly someone who I think can get the culture and the understanding of what we do here.”

Barton, as we all know, went to the manager’s house for lunch where he got an omelette, but it wasn’t the food that persuaded him. He said: “We spoke at length about football over lunch yesterday. I knew as soon as I left his house that I wanted to play for Burnley. He’s the most impressive guy I’ve sat in front of for a long, long time.”

It wasn’t even a watching brief at first. He wasn’t there because of other commitments when we beat Bristol City and we won another two games before he finally got on the bench at Derby on a Monday night in September.

He wasn’t called on but the Joey Barton era wasn’t far away. He came on as a substitute for his debut as we lost to Reading at home and was in the starting line up for the next game at Rotherham. It was a place he was to keep right through to the end of the season.

We had an England international in our team, but he was no prima donna and he soon won everyone over with his performances. But it wasn’t just how well he played. Throughout the season he was targeted by other teams and some of the challenges (and I use the word challenges very loosely indeed) he had to contend with were hard to believe. Not as though he got too much support from referees either and there were a number of occasions when he was yellow carded simply because of who he was.

He had to contend with those ridiculous comments from Don Goodman during the game at Brighton and then, in the next away game, Gary Rowett, the Birmingham manager, joined in, suggesting he’d got Jon Toral yellow carded.

We’d come to expect it. Virtually every week he would have to take a bad tackle from someone, but he just got up and played the game as it should be played, hard and tough, but very fair.

They say Burnley fans love a player who gives his all and Joey certainly did that. The number of times he broke up attacks by our opponents and the number of times he started our attacks forward were countless.

Often, some of the work he did went unnoticed. In his last Turf Moor appearance against QPR, when promotion was clinched, former Burnley manager Steve Cotterill, working for Sky said: “Almost every second ball, he’s in and around it.”

He also gave us some real quality. His early passes often sent us forward and there were some real quality balls into the box that led to goals. He even scored three himself although, alas, none of them were on the Turf. The third of them at Preston proved to be the most crucial but the one he scored from the free kick at Brentford was surely his best.

He’s never without a word, as his Twitter followers will know, but some time ago he said he wouldn’t be happy to win promotion in second place, that he’d come here to win the league. They were strong words but at the time I wondered whether he’d taken leave of his senses. We looked a good bet for the play-offs, that’s for sure, but Champions? I couldn’t see it and my glass was half full.

He got what he wanted as we went on that relentless 23 game unbeaten run, although a balls up saw him miss getting presented with his medal on the town hall steps although he did get another bottle of coke which I had the privilege of presenting him with and without throwing it at him. He’s got his medal since and what a prize for him to take to Glasgow as a memory of his time at Burnley.

When that particular rumour leaked out a week last Saturday I was just reading about how he was looking forward to playing for us in the Premier League and how we should be looking to do more than just survive. Given that, I dismissed the link but as time moved on so it became clear that a move might be on.

In typical Joey Barton fashion, he teased us on Twitter before finally today telling us today in a series of tweets that he was leaving us, all of which are shown below.

Yes, he’s got his memories including that medal, but he’s left us with some. We’ve had better players at Burnley, and we have very definitely had far worse players. We’ve had players who were here for years without having the same impact that he’s had in just 38 league appearances.

I don’t think there will be a Burnley supporter who wasn’t won over in the end and I don’t think there will be any who don’t want to say thanks to him and send him best wishes at Rangers.

Thanks Joey #UTC




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