A Tough cookie

During his first season in the Premier League, Ashley Barnes has so far scored five times and grabbed one assist, but it is his “hard man” style of play which has caused the most controversy. By Liam Andrews.

Danny Ings has hogged the headlines at Burnley this season but whether it was a “criminal tackle” or a “coming together”, team-mate Ashley Barnes had his moment in the spotlight recently after his challenge on Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic.

Clarets manager Sean Dyche defended his player while opposite number Jose Mourinho launched a savage attack on the 25-year-old.

Only Barnes can know what the intent was as he launched into the tackle but it is interesting to note he believes he was “toughened” up by playing in English football’s lower leagues earlier in his career.

He said: “When I was 16 or 17 I was playing with the men and getting kicked to pieces. It toughened me up a little bit and I have gone from there.”

Ian Holloway was the Plymouth manager at the time and signed Barnes, who was born in Bath, from his local Somerset side Paulton Rovers in 2007 and he has since gone from non-league to Premier League football.

“I think I have played in nearly every league possible,” he said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey and I don’t want it to stop.”

He made his debut that year as a second-half substitute in a League Cup tie against Wycombe Wanderers before being sent out for a number of loan spells at Grays Athletic, Oxford United, Salisbury City and then Eastbourne Borough, where he impressed with five goals in eight games.

Those performances earned Barnes the chance to prove himself with parent club Plymouth in the Championship and he scored his first goal for them in a 4-0 thrashing of Coventry City and, after being spotted on Argyle’s pre-season tour, he even played for Austria’s under-20s side after qualifying to represent them through his grandmother.

A loan spell with Torquay United in 2009/10 followed, before scoring four times in eight matches in a temporary spell with Brighton & Hove Albion.

He joined the League One club on a permanent basis that summer and went on to net 20 goals in 49 games including the vital header which sent the Seagulls into the Championship.

His first serious indiscretion came in 2013 when he received a seven-match ban for trying to trip the referee in a 1-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers, which came just weeks after seeing red for kicking out at Sheffield Wednesday’s Kieran Lee.

After three-and-a-half seasons with the club, Barnes left Brighton and made the move north to join promotion-chasing Burnley in January 2014.

He netted three times as the Clarets were promoted to the top tier of English football for the first time since 2010, including grabbing a goal in the 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic which sealed their return.

During his first season in the Premier League, Barnes has so far scored five times and grabbed one assist, but it is his “hard man” style of play which has caused the most controversy.

In the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, he was perhaps fortunate not to be sent off for a challenge on Branislav Ivanovic and then again when he caught Matic with his studs after making a pass.

Referee Martin Atkinson failed to show a yellow card for either incident and instead it was Matic who was sent off for reacting to a tackle which, according to Mourinho, “could have been the end of his career”.

Barnes also escaped any action from the FA but he has gone from being just another Premier League footballer to a household.

He is married to Zan and the couple have one child.

FACTFILE Name: Ashley Barnes Position: Forward Club: Burnley D.O.B: 30/10/1989

Moment to remember: Scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 win against Dagenham & Redbridge to send Brighton into the Championship.

Moment to forget: Sent off and banned for seven matches for trying to trip the referee, while playing for the Seagulls against Bolton in 2013.

© PA Sport