Now back in the Premier League after a short yet controversial spell in Scotland, Burnley’s Joey Barton has slotted straight into Sean Dyche’s midfield at Turf Moor.
Only signing for six months (for now), the 34-year-old has had a relatively successful professional football career, playing for the likes of Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers and Rangers, as well as a rather surprising yet rewarding season at Marseille in Ligue 1.
The Burnley midfielder was brought in on loan by the French club for the 2012-13 season at a time when Barton was suspended for 12 games for violent conduct, and repaid their faith with some solid performances on the pitch as Marseille finished second in Ligue 1.
With his biography soon to be released in France, Barton gave an interview to Le Journal du Dimanche, and recalled his time at Marseille, where he was greeted by the fans with a “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” banner, the name he chose for his book, which touched him greatly.
He said: “I was surprised that such a club was interested in me, a pariah, and that the fans were happy with that choice. I learnt more in 10 months over there than I have in England. British players rarely move, and I’m not good enough to play for Real Madrid like Gareth Bale.
“But circumstances allowed me to live abroad. I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t really have an idea what French football culture was like or what a club of this scale expected. I didn’t even know the manager [Elie Baup]. His instructions were more subtle than in England, and I didn’t really understand them with his accent from the Pyrenees. I had to adapt.”
Greatly enjoying his time in France, the now Burnley star regrets not having had the opportunity to stay, especially after being such an influential member of the team for the season.
He continued: “Even if I didn’t score a lot, I was important in the dressing room. There were quite a few cliques and I had the impression of performing a juggling act. They were good players, good guys, but the French have a great talent to create themselves problems.
“It must be in your culture: when all is going well, you chuck a grenade in there to see what happens. With my experience, I kept a kind of balance. I was friends with everyone, but I had a go when things weren’t going well for the team. Valbuena was having a great season, but he sometimes got cocky, and I had to take him down a peg or two at times. Remind him this wasn’t L’Olympique de Valbuena.”
Now back in England with Burnley following a rather controversial spell with Rangers in Scotland ending with him getting his contract rescinded following a betting scandal, Barton seems to be keeping his head down and focusing on his football, something he also did at Marseille.
That worked out well for him, so it will be intriguing to see whether or not the Premier League side decide to keep him beyond the current campaign or not.