ASHLEY Barnes wants Burnley to take advantage of two big games to boost their automatic promotion hopes, after experiencing the pain of the play-offs.
The Clarets’ new striker achieved a top six Championship finish with tonight’s opponents Brighton last season.
The Seagulls were the in-form side going into the promotion shake-up having remained unbeaten in their last nine games, only to lose to Crystal Palace in the semi finals.
Barnes admitted it was no consolation that the Eagles went up.
It should have been them.
But he feels the Clarets are well-placed to reach the Premier League via the direct route, and sees tonight’s reunion with his old club as an opportunity to enhance their cause ahead of Saturday’s showdown with QPR, who leapfrogged Burnley into second after the last full round of fixtures.
“The lads have had a heads-up, it will be a difficult game, but nothing that we can’t handle,” he said.
“We’re in the top three for a reason and that’s where we deserve to be from the lads’ performances in the first half of the season.
“We’ve just come out of the top two and we have hardly been out of the top two all season.
“I just want to help us get back up there.
“Leicester are flying at the moment.
“They have a game in hand and they’re going on a little run, so why can’t we?
“As soon as you can open up a points gap it gives you a little bit of leeway, so we’ll push to get to the top two, for sure.
“It was a very stressful time in my career last season (in the play-offs).
“You have so many ups and downs, so hopefully I can come out on top this year.
“It was a kick in the teeth last year. You go home and you think, ‘What the hell just happened?’.
“It was difficult to take but you bounce back, believe in your own ability and that you’ll make it.
“I’m here now and I hope I can get promoted with Burnley, and hopefully in the top two rather than through the play-offs.”
His immediate aim of three points against his old team-mates would be a start.
Barnes dreams of his first Burnley goal in the game too, although he admits he wouldn’t celebrate. Not openly anyway.
“I won’t celebrate. I will deep down inside, being the first goal, but I wouldn’t disrespect them,” said the 24-year-old, who says he would be ready to give a pre-match presentation on Brighton if required.
“I’m sure I will once the teamsheet comes.
“I still speak to them and I’m still close to quite a few of the lads, which is good.
“I’ll hopefully try to get as much information out of them as possible to help us, but it will be very interesting to see them all and play against them. It will be a bit strange, but it will be a special moment.
“I had four great years there and left on a high.
“Now I’ve got a new chapter in my life.”
Barnes has already relocated from the south coast to the north west, just two weeks after completing his move.
And it was perhaps the inspiration behind the tune he chose for his initiation song during the club’s warm weather training camp in Alicante.
“I sang the Proclaimers (500 Miles). It was just something catchy and all the boys joined in so that was good enough for me,” he laughed. “I needed a song just to get all the boys going.”
The Clarets also took time out from training while they were away to watch Barcelona in action at Levante.
“It was amazing just to watch everything, the movement and stuff. It was good,” said Barnes, who added it was a beneficial but rare experience to take in the game with the rest of his team-mates.
“You don’t really get chance to go to a live game because you’re always in football and then after football is home time and family time.
“It was good to get together as a group and watch a live match.”