Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Barton: I'm Now a Better Player; Joey Ready for First Team: Joey: I Am Now a Better Player

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Barton: I'm Now a Better Player; Joey Ready for First Team: Joey: I Am Now a Better Player

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

JOEY Barton took a step closer to returning to Newcastle United's first team last night insisting he is a better player than when he signed for the club three years ago.

The midfielder missed a penalty on his return for the reserves at Hartlepool but it was a solid 75-minute run-out for the man United paid pounds 5.8million for in 2007.

Barton has declared himself available for Saturday's trip to Bristol City if selected - the first step on a comeback that he hopes will re-establish him as one of the country's premier midfielders.

A focused Barton is conscious that he must prove his claims on the pitch but he has lost none of his belief during a sixmonth spell on the sidelines with a broken foot.

And the former England international says his motivation for returning is to repay supporters who have surprised him by sticking with him during a largely turbulent three-year spell.

"Since I've been at Newcastle I've had three broken feet and a torn medial ligament in two and a bit years - plus a well-documented spell in the clink and numerous other problems," he said. "But I'm someone who will bounce back. If there's another penalty I'll put myself forward for it. That is what gets me going.

"Hopefully I can just get a sustained run. I'm confident in my own ability - it's not going to be easy for me but I believe in myself greatly. At one stage I was in the top echelon of midfielders in this country.

"There's certainly none of my ability lost - I actually feel I'm a better player now. But I've got to stay fit to prove it. It's all well and good talking about it but I've got to prove it and that starts, hopefully if I'm selected, on Saturday."

Speaking after the 2-0 reserve defeat at Victoria Park, Barton was enthusiastic about his third return in Newcastle colours. …

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