Cobblers signing Leon Barnett still has big ambitions
New Cobblers defender Leon Barnett has played in the Premier League, he has graced the turf at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge the Etihad and the Emirates.
He has shared the biggest stages and gone toe-to-toe with world stars such as Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Robin van Persie, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba, but he is still a player with big ambitions.
The 31-year-old, who once cost West Bromwich Albion a cool £2.5 million when they bought him from Luton Town, is looking forward to the next chapter in his footballing career after signing for the Cobblers from Sky Bet League One rivals Bury.
Barnett’s career already spans 15 years, with the player having made his senior debut for the Hatters as a 16-year-old in the Football League Trophy back in 2002.
He has enjoyed the highs of promotions as well as the downs of relegation, and he has made it clear he isn’t coming to Sixfields to settle for second best, or some sort of mid-table medocrity, he still wants to be a winner.
“As a sportsman you like to be ambitious, and like to believe you can reach the top,” said Barnett, who in his career spanning more than 300 matches to date has played for Luton, West Brom, Coventry City, Norwich City, Cardiff City, Wigan Athletic and Bury.
“I have not just come here to sit in mid-table, I have come here to win games.
“The person that I am, I want to win games, and win leagues, and that is what I have come here to do.”
Barnett spoke of the Cobblers’ ambition impressing him in the talks before he put pen to paper, but he accepts that league one is going to be a very, very tough division to compete in next season.
It’s debatable whether relegated trio Blackburn Rovers, Wigan and Rotherham United will be any stronger than the sides promoted in Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers and Millwall.
But it looks like Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool will pack more of a punch than the relegated quartet of Chesterfield, Coventry, Swindon Town and Port Vale managed last season.
Add into the equation the ambition and spending power of the likes of Bradford City, Charlton Athletic, Milton Keynes Dons, Scunthorpe United and Bristol Rovers, who will all be targeting promotion campaigns, and you have a tough old division.
Barnett is well aware of that, but he is up for the challenge.
“The level and standard of each league is getting tougher and tougher,” said the Stevenage-born player.
“If you look at the Championship, more or less all of the clubs there have played in the Premier League, and league one is very tough, I enjoyed playing in it last season.
“You have the likes of Blackpool coming up and Portsmouth, Plymouth, and then the teams coming down from the Championship are strong.
“It is going to be very interesting, and there are a lot of games I am going to be looking forward to.”
Another thing Barnett is looking forward to is an injury-free season.
There has been nothing serious for the player to worry about, but the central defender has suffered a series of niggles, pulls and strains that mean he hasn’t managed a full season of games since 2013-14 when he played 53 times for Wigan as they reached the Championship play-off semi-finals.
His appearance totals for the following three campaigns have been reasonable, playing 21 times for Wigan in 14/15, 24 for Wigan in 15/16 and then 26 for Bury last season, crucially playing injury-free for the Shakers from February onwards, but he wants to be playing more.
Barnett admits it has been a frustrating time for him, but he is confident that with a full pre-season under his belt this summer, he will be fit and firing for the Cobblers.
“Pre-season is the main thing for me, as I think I have been unfortunate with a few injuries,” said Barnett.
“This is a new chapter now, I am going to get my head down and concentrate on the start of the season, and then taking it one game at a time.
“Inuries do hold you back when you get them, but I feel I am more experienced and know how to look after my body a bit better than I did when I was younger.
“Hopefully all of those injuries are behind me.”