John Brown: Joey Barton can emulate Ray Wilkins at Rangers

Joey Barton has been backed to bring vital experience to the Rangers midfield next season. Picture: Getty.
Joey Barton has been backed to bring vital experience to the Rangers midfield next season. Picture: Getty.
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Both were former England international midfielders and in their early 30s when they signed for Rangers.

There, you might think, the similarities between Joey Barton and Ray Wilkins pretty much come to an end.

But if the character, reputation and back stories of the two men differ considerably, John Brown believes Barton can have a similarly positive effect at Rangers as his former Ibrox team-mate Wilkins, pictured, did back in the late 1980s.

“When Joey signed, a few of my mates phoned me to say ‘he’s a headcase’, said Brown. “I told them that’s just through social media – he’s a good footballer and you just need to look at the clubs that he’s played for.

“He’s looked after himself, he’s a very good player and you can’t get enough of them. If you’ve got good experience in the spine of your side, they can talk to the guys round about them and bring them on. Joey will not hold back.

“I played with Ray Wilkins and he could just read situations on the pitch. Joey sees the game the same way and he will be a big help for lads like Andy Halliday and Jason Holt in the middle of the park.

“Joey is 33 and that’s when you are still at your peak as a midfield player. I remember when Ray came to Rangers, he would be in the gym until 5pm after training every day.

“Whenever we had the afternoon off, he would go to his bed. He would say that his body paid the mortgage so he would have to look after it. Joey is the same that way. If you are an athlete, that’s what pays the bills. So you have to put everything into it. He is at that age, has great experience and that is what Rangers have been missing.

“What he’s done in his career has been fantastic. I think Burnley fans, when they signed him, were against it. But he proved himself by winning the Championship last season.

“His experience will be a big thing as I feel Rangers have lacked that, big characters with good experience to help the younger players.

“I also think Joey’s career will get another kick on from joining Rangers. When I was scouting, I went to Burnley games and there were around 14,000 people there. So for Joey to come from that, to walking out the tunnel at Ibrox in front of 50,000, will take his career up a level again.

“He’s a big-time player and will look at that 
arena and really want to cherish it. He’ll want to come up here and prove a point.”

Brown was speaking as he promoted today’s deadline for existing Rangers season-ticket holders to renew for the 2016-17 campaign. Ahead of the club’s return to top-flight football, more than 30,000 have already signed up.

Expectation levels surrounding Mark Warburton’s squad will inevitably be high and Brown believes Celtic’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager is a sign of the Scottish champions 
preparing themselves for a genuine challenge to their current domestic supremacy from the other side of Glasgow.

“Celtic are still the dominant force and they’ve strengthened,” added Brown. “It’s a compliment to Rangers that they’ve done that.

“It’s going to take a few years before Rangers get back up there but there’s no reason why they can’t compete within the Premiership.

“But they’ll need to show consistency because they are stepping up a level to a better standard of football than they faced in the Championship.

“I think qualifying for Europe would represent success for Rangers next season. The club has been in a difficult financial position for a number of years because of the previous boards. Dave King and the rest are sorting all that out. It is going to take time to build up a fund for the manager to take Rangers to the next level again.”

While last season ended on a disappointing note for Rangers, with defeat by Hibs in the Scottish Cup final, Brown believes that failure to lift silverware which would also have secured a place in the Europa League qualifiers could ultimately prove a blessing in disguise for Warburton.

“It might not be a bad thing,” he said. “I know it would have helped the finances, but the manager can now focus on domestic football which I feel will benefit a squad which was pretty tight last season.

“When I played for Rangers in the Champions League, we were facing intense games at that level and then, with all due respect, playing Falkirk or Motherwell on the Saturday. It’s hard to get back up to the right level of intensity, both physically and mentally, for the domestic games. So I think not having European football will be a benefit for the manager this year.

“If Rangers get into Europe next season, then that would be great – but for this one it is more important to focus on the domestic side of things and establish themselves back in the league.”

Brown, meanwhile, is confident Warburton will not be tempted to follow Alan Stubbs’ lead in leaving Scottish football behind for a job in the 
English Championship.

“I think Mark has come up here and fallen in love with Rangers,” he said. “This club and this city does something to you, I’ve seen it with many players through the years. It has caught Mark.”