sport

Barton ready for the top

QPR midfielder Joey Barton insists he is ready to return to the Premier League after a period of re-evaluation and 'growing up'.

After his sending off against Manchester City at the end of the 2011/12 season, Barton has reflected on his former behaviour and is sure that the only way is up.

"You're always trying to improve as a person and a player," said Barton, who spent the 2012/13 campaign on loan at Marseille.

"You have to pick yourself up and go again. In the coming weeks I'll be re-evaluating my goals and targets from a personal point of view."

Barton commended his QPR manager Harry Redknapp, who has suggested the 31-year-old has the potential for a glowing managerial career in the future.

However, the Merseyside-born midfielder has plenty of aspirations before taking up permanent residence in a dugout.

He said: "I'd rather be a top player first.

"I've still got a lot of goals that I'm able to achieve as a player.

"Hopefully my best years are still ahead of me."

The challenge of returning to top-flight football is no small feat in his eyes, either and retaining their position is of the utmost importance to QPR and to Barton.

"If they offered me 17th place now, I'd take it.

"The stronger we are as a group of men, the better chance we have of staying in the Premier League."