JOEY Barton kicked off the 2016-17 Old Firm mind games in earnest last night when he insisted all the pressure was on Celtic to win their sixth top flight title in a row. While the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager is a statement of intent from across the city to retain their stranglehold over the Ladbrokes Premiership, the 33-year-old midfielder said last night that he is savouring the challenge of wresting the title from the Parkhead side's grasp. Rangers are at the stage in their development, though, where they still have to take it game by game.

"They have got some great players there, they have got a manager who has come from a big club in England," said Barton. "The reality is that the pressure is on them, they have to win the league.

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"They have had it all their own way for a long period and now they have got to move it up a gear," added the midfielder, who was playing yesterday in a Pro-Am tournament at Wentworth, in close proximity to Celtic majority shareholder Dermot Desmond. "Aberdeen took them to the wire for a long period and credit to them for that. But, for Rangers, we have got to go in and take it game by game. You don’t win a championship by turning up and saying ‘we are going to win the championship’. It is fought and it is ground out over the course of a year. I look forward to the challenge, I look forward to that gauntlet being thrown down."

HeraldScotland: Rangers' newest signing Joey Barton is unveiled to the press at Murray Park. Picture: SNS

Barton, who helped Burnley to the SkyBet Championship title south of the border last season, concedes that the expectation of the Rangers fans is to deliver the league title immediately. "I am not worried about five-in-a-row and things like that," said Barton. "Someone has got to win the league, and we have got to work incredibly hard to make sure that is us. That is the expectation of this football club. Rangers are on 54 league titles, and what sweet way it would be to take your 55th league title.

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"It is the greatest and most successful league-title winning side in world football," he added. "But you have got another great club just across the road and they have got ambitions of their own. That is what makes football great. You can’t have one without the other and people north of the border have realised that in recent years. Even the most staunch Celtic supporter will admit that the rivalry is what brings out your best."


Barton will inherit the No 8 jersey worn by Paul Gascoigne, not to mention the likes of Steve Davis and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, but said there was no comparison with the maverick Geordie. "I just couldn’t sit here and put myself in the same breath as Gascoigne, because he is in a different stratosphere as a player to me," said Barton. "If I can have a minute percentage of the impact he had on this football club, I would snap your hand off for that now."

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