Barton's soap opera offers a debut against Newcastle

 

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The Independent Football

The last 10 minutes of Queen's Park Rangers' first Premier League match for 15 years were punctuated by the sight and sound of supporters rising from their tip-up seats and heading for the exits. Rangers were in the process of losing 4-0 to Bolton Wanderers and a quick return to the Championship seemed inevitable.

But Rangers return to Loftus Road this evening with the mood around the club transformed. The interfering influence of Flavio Briatore is gone, replaced by the can-do but hands-off support of Tony Fernandes. Six players have been signed, including three England internationals – Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Luke Young – and Rangers have even picked up three points at Goodison Park.

Barton's soap-opera life should not preclude him playing for England again according to his new manager, Neil Warnock, but it does seem typical that he will make his debut tonight against Newcastle United, from whose board he became so estranged that they released him on a free transfer.

Warnock is unconcerned about what he terms Barton's "baggage" noting that QPR would not have been able to sign him without it. "He'll be my first name on the teamsheet," said Warnock. "I thought we lacked a bit of experience at the top level, that's what Joey and the other signings bring."

Barton, Wright-Phillips, Young and Anton Ferdinand should come straight into the team with Armand Traoré contesting the left-back spot with Clint Hill. With Adel Taarabt close to match-fitness after a week at a specialist camp in France, the sixth signing, Jason Puncheon, is likely to be on the bench.

The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, was disappointed at not having the resources to make more of a transfer deadline splash himself, but left-back Davide Santon, signed to replace Luis Enrique, is likely to start as a substitute.

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