Championship is too close to call – Barton
Clarets midfielder Joey Barton feels that it’s too early in the season to gauge the Championship just yet.
Sunday’s opponents Brighton are alongside Hull City at the division’s summit, just two points ahead of Sean Dyche’s side, having gone 16 games unbeaten this term.
Victory over Chris Hughton’s high-flying Seagulls, coupled with defeat for the Tigers away at Bristol City in tomorrow’s early kick off, would see the Clarets leapfrog the pair at the top of the table.
But, even if that scenario unfolds, Barton insists that the hierarchy won’t begin to take its natural order until the festive period. “I think we’re too early for that,” he said. “Usually Christmas is a good barometer of any league.
“The league kind of settles down and you start to see what teams are going to go into what group, then you always get the perennial late bloomer who comes out of the pack and makes a run at the play-offs, in any Championship season.
“I think at this moment in time it’s a tough league to call because it’s so competitive, which is a great thing because teams are very closely matched. That’s the great thing about this league - it’s hugely competitive.
“Brighton have been on a great run so we need to roll our sleeves up every week because there are no easy games in this league. You can’t take your foot off the gas - that’s the beauty of the Championship.
“While it may not have all the qualities of the Premier League, it certainly has a competitiveness.”
The Clarets sit second in the Championship’s form table after accumulating 17 points during a seven-game unbeaten run.
However, Barton insists his team-mates can’t rest on their laurels against a Brighton side who have never fallen behind on their travels.
“It’s a difficult league,” said the 33-year-old, who has earned promotion from the second tier with Newcastle United and QPR. “If you take your eye off the ball for a couple of games you find yourself playing catch-up.
“There are a few teams that have made solid starts; teams that dropped out of the Premier League. Ourselves and Hull have made a solid start.
“We’re only just over a quarter of the way into a long hard season so from our point of view you’ve got to hit your straps at the right time. You want to hit form at the right time.”
The England cap added: “Fair play to Hull, they’ve gone off like a scolded cat but I’d much prefer to finish like a scalded cat.
“The longer you sit at the top of the table you’re there to be shot at. We’ve made a solid return.
“If we continue to do what we do and continue to put in the performances we do we shan’t be far away from it.
“There’s a long way to go so no-one at this football club will be getting ahead of themselves.
“There’s a lot of hard work between now and May if we’re going to go on and win this league.”