By Alex Stevens

Joey Barton has taken to Twitter to defend Andre Gray after the Burnley striker issued an apology on Saturday for homophobic tweets he sent in 2012.

Gray apologised and asked “for forgiveness” after homophobic tweets he posted four years ago were shared on social media.

One tweet from the 25-year-old Premier League player’s account appeared to condone killing gay people.

Rangers midfielder Barton, who was a teammate of Gray at Burnley last season, claimed on his personal Twitter account on Saturday night that he “wouldn’t call someone who was homophobic my friend” and was happy to call Gray a friend and “one of the nicest lads you could meet”.

Gray said he was now a “completely different person” to the one who posted those messages and he did not “hold the beliefs written in those tweets”.

“Thankfully I am not the guy I was back then,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

The tweets date from four years ago, when Gray was playing for non-league Hinckley United.

The posts, which also contained offensive terms, were deleted on Saturday, soon after coming to light.

One read: “Is it me or are there gays everywhere? #Burn #Die #Makesmesick”.

The tweets were highlighted on the day Gray scored his first top-flight goal, helping Burnley to a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Turf Moor.

It comes just a month after he criticised two Burnley fans for racism during a pre-season friendly.

In other Rangers news, the club are to complete their 11th signing of the summer by Monday.