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’.”