By Alex Stevens
Dougie Freedman has revealed he held talks with Joey Barton in a south-west London pub about signing him for Nottingham Forest.
The former Forest boss says he came within a whisker of taking Barton to the City Ground 12 months ago.
However, Barton eventually joined Burnley and was a key figure in their promotion to the Premier League before making a shock switch to Rangers last month.
“I tried to sign Joey Barton,” Freedman told the Glasgow Evening Times. “I had him in a pub in Richmond a year ago. We’d a two-hour chat about coming to Forest. I nearly got there.
“I got over the first hurdle about football – which was tough. He met the chairman of Forest and couldn’t quite do a deal. And within 48 hours Henri Lansbury, who was going to go to Burnley, stayed at Forest, and Barton went to Burnley.”
Freedman is convinced the signing of Barton has turned Rangers from a top-five club into title contenders.
The former Scotland striker has no concern about Barton’s controversial reputation and is sure that the player will bring that extra competitive edge to the Ibrox engine room and push Celtic all the way.
“I think it’s a very good career move for him, it gives him the opportunity to win things,” Barton told the Glasgow Evening Times. “In terms of what is said about him and supposed baggage, you’d need to control it. All top athletes live on the edge. As a manager you want that. You have to keep them on that straight and narrow.
“Joey’s a good player and very influential in the dressing-room. In terms of signings players I think Rangers have the edge right now, in signing a Joey Barton. They’ve made a little statement there that they’re not going to be content to come up and be fourth or fifth.
“They have to go close as they can to Celtic and Barton’s signing pushes it. Joey’s a serious guy, he’s not taking second-best.”
Freedman is currently out of the game. He has managed in the Championship for six years with Crystal Palace, Bolton and Forest and is now taking time to reflect before entering into hid next challenge.