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By ESPN Staff

Barton aims to "turn negatives into positives"

Controversial Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton has vowed to use the tide of abuse heading his way to fuel his bid to return to his best form.

The 26-year-old could return to senior action for the Magpies in Saturday's derby clash with Sunderland and the Stadium of Light.

His reappearance after completing a six-match Football Association ban for a training ground incident involving former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo could hardly have come amid a more hostile atmosphere.

Barton knows he will be a target for opposing fans after also serving 74 days of a six-month prison sentence for assault and affray.

However, he is determined to use the stick as a motivating force in the attempt to repay the faith of the people who stood by him.

Barton told Sky Sports News: "It is important to me to get my career back on track. I know I am going to get stick, I know that, wherever I go, and I have no problem with that.

"That's stick is totally deserved. If anyone else was in my situation, I would probably be saying the same things people are saying about me. I have got to live with that, probably until the end of my playing days.

"There are two ways I can go: I can either let it affect me and go under and become a shadow of the players I can be; or I can turn negatives into positives and use it to my benefit to get me right on the ball and get me back where I belong.''

In a series of frank interviews in the wake of his return for the reserves on Tuesday night, Barton has opened his heart on the self-inflicted misery of the last 18 months.

However, he believes he has the character to come through the most turbulent period of his chequered career to date.

He said: "They [the critics] will always be there. I can't do anything about that, those are things that are out of my control.

"But I have a quirky kind of personality where, if people test you and people push you and push you and push you, there's something in-built in me which has got a strong sense of 'Let's prove them wrong'.

"I have always been the underdog, I have always been under-rated, and sometimes when people do that, you find a side to yourself that either goes under, or you stand there and say, 'This is what I am about'.''

Barton also paid tribute to Kevin Keegan, the man who fought his corner amid concerted calls for him to be sacked.

He said: "Mr Keegan was massive for me. He has known me a long, long time, and his support at a time when I didn't deserve support, I will be forever grateful for that.

"I will always carry that with me and be eternally grateful. He stuck his neck on the line for me and defended me when I didn't deserve defending and for that man I have got nothing but admiration.

"I was very sorry to see him go. But those things are out of my control. There is talk of him in the pipeline coming back - he is a football man, and if anyone knows this football club, it's Mr Keegan.''

But Barton has been impressed too with the job done by interim boss Joe Kinnear since he was asked to step into the void left by Keegan's resignation.

He said: "Mr Kinnear has come in and he has been a breath of fresh air. He hasn't tried to be anyone else, he has come in and been himself, as I think has been well-documented in his press conferences, and I like him.

"He is a quite straightforward guy. There's a lot of respect in the changing room for him. Mr Keegan was a tough act to follow, but Joe has got his own style and he has stuck to that, and a lot of the lads have responded.

"We were a coupe of goals down at Everton and managed to get a result, and then we were 1-0 down to [Manchester] City, down to 10 men and you would think we had 12 men on the pitch the way the guys performed that night.

"That's testament to not only Mr Kinnear, but also the backroom staff, Chris Hughton and Richard Money and Paul Barron.

"Everyone has been in it together and it has been a backs-to-the wall job and and us-against-them mentality, and thankfully the lads have been playing some good football.

"If I can go some way to helping them along in whatever is demanded from me, I will be there chipping in with them.''


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