Ever since stories first emerged linking Joey Barton with a move to Rangers the self-styled North-West Nietzsche has created headlines for his forthright views on his ability; in particular those aimed at Scotland & Celtic captain Scott Brown.
During the European Championship in France over the summer the midfielder told his Talksport co-host Alan Brazil that Brown was “nowhere near the level of player” that Barton felt he was adding that he was “not even in my league”. The ex-QPR, Newcastle & Man City star would continue: "He can’t get near me. If I play well, Brown does not stand a chance. That’s not me being blase – that’s just me stating what I believe."
Brown would later laugh off Barton’s comments with a dig about Barton being a “Celtic fan”. Scott Brown, as Scott Brown is prone to doing, made a slight error of judgement in forgetting that he grew up a Rangers fan and played for Rangers youth sides as a boy before going on to captain Celtic.
Barton quickly tweeted a photo of Brown in a Rangers top.
Away from social media and talk radio Barton quickly established cult hero status amongst a Rangers support deprived of big name signings over the last five years. Barton made his long-awaited debut against Annan Athletic in the group stages of the League Cup and, unsurprisingly, strolled through the game. Despite looking a little unfit his technical ability and intelligence put him head and shoulders above an Annan team made up of students and part-time players.
A second Ibrox run out, this time against Stranraer saw Barton breeze through against lower league opposition. Dictating play and organising a defence that, in recent months, had looked almost as shambolic at times as the Labour leadership election. Alongside fellow new signings Niko Kranjcar and Jordan Rossiter Rangers boss Mark Warburton looked to have pulled of a master-stroke in signing all three for a combined fee of less than £250k. Barton clearly believed he had come to Ibrox to win the title, with Rangers second favourites with most betting companies (as you'll see on monsterbet.co.uk.)
Then came Hamilton and Rangers' first game in the Premiership since 2012. A packed, quite emotional, Ibrox waited for Warburton’s new look side to sweep aside Hamilton and take a commanding lead at the top of the table before any other game had kicked off but it never happened. For an hour Rangers huffed and puffed but never really looked doing anything. The slick, crisp passing of previous games had gone. The cool, controlled Barton was now snarling into challenges, fairly, or chasing runners on 30 yard sprints and being left for dead. Long ball after long ball into the corner failed to find it’s intended target and by the hour mark Mark Warburton had to make a change to salvage something from the game.
Jordan Rossiter was introduced, pushing Barton further forward into the space vacated by the substituted Halliday, and all of a sudden the Rangers midfield looked far more balanced than it had all afternoon. Barton even found himself in a decent position to have a shot at goal a few times and was unlucky not to have done a bit better with them. Rangers’ number 8 was again picking the ball up and finding teammates with his passes, attackers were no longer ghosting past him and his presence in the middle of the park played a big part in Rangers equaliser.
Throwing himself into a 50/50, Barton won the ball just over halfway. Harry Forrester’s delightful, outside of the boot, pass fell perfectly for Martyn Waghorn who swept it beyond the Hamilton keeper.
He’s maybe not put in a performance that backs his summer claims up yet but if he can build on the last 30 minutes against Hamilton then it won’t be long until he puts any doubts to bed.