Midfielder Joey Barton has warned Burnley’s promotion rivals that they’ll be fighting tooth and nail to secure a top flight return.
The Clarets reclaimed top spot in the Championship at the weekend, usurping Middlesbrough, courtesy of a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Turf Moor.
A sequence of one win in eight league fixtures over the course of November and December had seen Sean Dyche’s side slip out of contention for the division’s automatic places but a 12-game unbeaten run has remedied that.
After picking up the man of the match gong for his performance against Rovers, where leading scorer Andre Gray scored the winner from the spot, Barton said: “I think we were seven points behind Boro with a few games in hand at one stage.
“Their manager spoke about it publicly, which I felt was a strange thing to do with so many games to play.
“Everyone expects them to do well with their budget and how much they’ve spent - there’s a lot of pressure on that football club.
“Middlesbrough are going to be in the promotion picture with us and it’s just a message that we send out to everybody saying ‘Look, we’re Burnley, we’re relentless, we ain’t going away’. That’s the reason we’re sitting top of the table.
“We’re built on solid foundations and I’m just really enjoying my football, it’s an absolute privilege and pleasure to be a part of this.”
The 33-year-old, also voted man of the match in the win at Ewood Park in October, was quick to praise the impact of goalkeeper Tom Heaton in recent weeks.
The England international has been well protected by his back four recently but he made crucial stops to preserve Burnley’s lead in games against Bolton and Rovers.
Heaton denied Elliott Bennett in each half of the East Lancashire derby while also thwarting Hope Akpan’s attempts to equalise.
“I’m very surprised how I ended up with man of the match because for me Heats has been the difference,” Barton said.
“We’ve been giving him a bit of stick because he hasn’t had an awful lot to do as we’ve defended so well recently. But today he was called upon and his quality has been the difference. He made two world class saves.”
Though the Clarets claimed a first double over Rovers in 37 years Barton confessed that they won’t allow such statistics to distract them from the job in hand.
Ahead of the fixture against Fulham at Craven Cottage, he said: “At this moment in time we’re absolutely transfixed in what we want to achieve internally, and also the next game, because if you start thinking beyond that in this league it’s got a habit of coming and kicking you.
“We don’t really get too far ahead of ourselves, that’s the gaffer’s mantra here. We just focus on the next game, which is Tuesday night at Fulham. It will be an equally difficult game.”