JOEY Barton’s last manager has branded the controversial Rangers midfielder ‘top-class’ both on and off the pitch.
Barton spent last season playing under Sean Dyche at Burnley and his impressive displays earned the 34-year-old a place in the PFA team of the year for the English Championship.
The former Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR player joined Rangers in the summer with a massive reputation and on his arrival in Govan boasted he was in a ‘different league’ to Celtic rival Scott Brown.
But, having played just eight times, a training-ground bust-up in the wake of the embarrassing 5-1 hammering from Celtic last month led to him being suspended from the club.
With most observers assuming Barton will never play for the Ibrox outfit again, it has proved an unsavoury episode for both club and player.
However, Dyche has backed his former favourite and claimed the ‘demanding’ ex-England under-21 internationalist caused him no problems whatsoever.
He said: “I can only judge on what I found and that was absolutely top-class – the way he went about it, the way he was with the group, with the staff.
“He’s very demanding still and if he asks a question he needs an answer.
“But as long as you are able to give him that answer and speak with him, he is first-class.
“And he was first-class on the pitch, by the way. People forget that. His conduct on the pitch was exemplary last season, absolutely.
“I will tell you now, he was getting smashed all over the place by players attempting to wind him up.
“He stayed absolutely steadfast to the cause for the club and that helped players around him, and brought other players to life at times.
“Sometimes it works, it just fits and there’s not always a complete definition for it. He fitted with us, we fitted with him.”
With Burnley now in the Premier League and struggling for top-flight survival, Barton has been linked with a return to Turf Moor when his Rangers stay does end.
However, speaking to the BBC, Dyche refused to be drawn on that possibility and added: “That’s for another day.”