"Privileged" Barton pledges future to Newcastle
JOEY Barton has quashed mounting speculation over his future by claiming it is a "privilege" to play for Newcastle United. The Magpies midfielder has featured in the club's last six matches after recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for the majority of the campaign, and provided a reminder of his ability with the perfectly-weighted through ball that led to Wayne Routledge's goal at Plymouth on Monday night. Barton's eye-catching performance at Home Park led to renewed speculation over his summer plans, with Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith and Danny Guthrie all having leapt above him in the pecking order during his enforced spell on the sidelines. But having benefited from Newcastle's support during a string of much-publicised troubles, the one-time England international is not about to turn his back on a club he feels proud to be a part of. "I am not going anywhere," said Barton, who is likely to miss out on a Championship winners' medal as a result of his limited involvement this season. "I love everything about this football club, every player here. "I'd be hard pushed to find a group of lads like it, a group of lads that I'd want to have a go with. This is them. "I've had a lot of chances here, and although it's been said before, I just want to prove how grateful I am by getting out there and playing football. "Injuries have hindered that a bit, but I'm humbled to be part of this achievement and humbled to be part of everything that is going to happen to this football club in the very near future. It's a privilege." Barton was a member of the Newcastle squad that crashed out of the Premier League 12 months ago, but having nurtured a powerful team spirit during their season outside the top-flight, the Liverpool-born midfielder feels the current squad is far superior to the one that struggled last season. For much of the current campaign, he has been on the outside looking in. But he has still seen more than enough to convince him that Newcastle's battling qualities will stand them in good stead as they attempt to survive next season. "We're in a much better position this time around to go into the Premier League," he said. "We've got some real, real strong characters, a real togetherness as a team. "It's probably the first time in my career I can look around and say I'm really happy to be in the trenches with every single one of them in the dressing room. There is not a set of lads like them. "Even with all the shenanigans and things that have been bandied about, people trying to stick spanners in the works - the lads have stayed together." That team spirit has carried Newcastle to their first domestic title since 1993, and a sold-out St James' Park will rise to acclaim the champions when they receive the Championship trophy in the wake of Saturday's home game with Ipswich. Having made only his seventh start of the season at Plymouth, Barton is desperate to be involved against Roy Keane's side, but admits his wider role in the title triumph has been peripheral at best. "The lads have laid all the foundations of what happened," he said. "I just helped put the chimney pot or the aerial on, if you like. Just the little end bit I was involved in. "I've been there in the background, willing the lads on. Im just humbled to be part of this squad of men and this achievement because I know people say we had the biggest squad but we still had to go out and win the league. "We've had some tough trips this season. We had 23 Cup finals away from home this year and when Newcastle come to town, you know everyone's going to be looking to take a scalp. "But the lads have been magnificent. They've done all the graft and hats off to them. I'm privileged to be part of it." Barton is not the only player hoping to play a more prominent role at St James' next season, as goalkeeper Fraser Forster has also turned his attentions towards the future as his loan spell at Norwich City nears its end. Forster has played an integral role in Norwich's promotion from League One, and while scouts from a number of Premier League clubs have been flocking to Carrow Road to watch him recently, the Hexham-born 21-year-old is desperate to succeed with the Magpies. "It's been a brilliant season for me," said Forster. "It's all part of my personal progression towards being a future Newcastle number one. "We're very strong for keepers at the minute, and I'm hoping to keep improving. As a local lad, I really want to make it at Newcastle, and I'm confident I can. "Steve Harper's had a fantastic season and I'm sure he'll carry that on into next season, but I'm just trying to close the gap on him and really push him for his place."
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