Barton: Bond between QPR players and fans is vital this season

QPR's Joey Barton (centre) shouts instructions to Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand during Saturday's

QPR's Joey Barton (centre) shouts instructions to Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand during Saturday's home defeat against Hull - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Joey Barton is delighted to be a Premier League player again and says the unity between players and fans will be vital to staying up this season.

The 31-year-old captained the Rs in the opening-day defeat against Hull – his first appearance in the top flight for two years.

Barton’s previous Premier League appearance had ended in ignominy at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium in May 2012, as he was sent off for appearing to elbow Carlos Tevez and then kicked out at Sergio Aguero before aiming a headbutt at Vincent Kompany.

He said: “A lot of people didn’t think I’d ever be back playing at this level.

“I’m just really enjoying being back in the Premier League. Obviously I had a year in France and then a tough year in the Championship last year – it’s just great to be back amongst it.

“Certainly when you think about my last game in the Premier League, it was great for me to just shut that down and get that ghost out the closet a little bit because it always lingers until you get back playing.

“It has been a strange journey – that was on my mind in the build- up to the game, as it would be.”

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He joked: “I don’t know if you’d have known about it but there was a minor skirmish at the Etihad which we will try and put behind is us and move on from.

“As a young Englishman – which I’m not any more – I did once dream of playing in the Premier League and playing against the best teams in the best stadiums, as we all no doubt did as kids.

“To have the opportunity to do that for me is a great thing. Last time I was at QPR I didn’t have the greatest rapport with the QPR fans when I was in the Premier League. This time I think the club is really united.

“I think they believe in this group of players a lot more than maybe previous groups of players.”

Barton continued: “I think we will be all right. If we show that level of commitment and that level of performance, we’re confident we will have enough to get over the line.

“We stayed up with 37 points the year I was here last time in the Premier League by the skin of our teeth and we never had as tight a bond, as tight a unity between players and supporters – and I don’t think we had the same quality when you think of that team.”

QPR visit Tottenham on Sunday and Barton believes manager Harry Redknapp will be determined to get one over on his former employers, having been sacked in 2012 despite securing two fourth-place finishes in three years.

Barton said: “Surmising, he’d love to get one over on them – I think maybe just because of that, being Tottenham manager and feeling he was a bit unlucky to get sacked.

“They’ve got a new manager in [Mauricio] Pochettino – they tend to have a new manager at the start of every year.

“They will obviously be keen to get off to a good start at White Hart Lane under a new manager. It will be a tough game – there are no easy games.”

Glenn Hoddle has recently joined the staff at QPR, and Barton has enjoyed sitting down and discussing the game with the new coach.

He said: “I’ve probably spoken to Glenn more than anyone. I’ve sat down and had a couple of conversations with him.

“He has obviously been England manager, and I think one of the last England managers that any of us enjoyed watching.

“We actually had a couple of decent sides who played decent football. Since then it hasn’t really been that good.

“I’m yet to have a discussion with him about certain spiritual beliefs which no doubt will pop up from time to time – just because I like to prod and poke people just to see where their comfort zones are.

“He has made a couple of points – certainly in the team shape.”

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