Belfast Telegraph

Barton: We're stronger now

QPR midfielder Joey Barton believes this current Rangers side is "poles apart" from the one that finished bottom of the Barclays Premier League two years ago.

Barton spent the campaign on loan at Marseille as Rangers finished 15 points adrift of safety in 2013 and paid the price for a lack of cohesion on and off the field.

Harry Redknapp was unable to rescue the west Londoners after taking over in November that season but his side have made a positive start to their return to the top flight.

A 2-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday - their third win in four games at home - saw Rangers climb out of the bottom three for the first time since September.

"The performances we have put in at Loftus Road have been exceptional, even in defeat sometimes," Barton said.

"The team spirit and togetherness of the football club is poles apart from that side which went out of the league with a whimper.

"We came up and we want to give a good account of ourselves. Slowly but surely we are doing that."

Barton continued: "To look at the table and see yourselves not in the bottom three is always heart-warming.

"Hopefully at the end of May that's the case because that will be job done and goal achieved. There's a long way to go. This is the 15th game.

"After the defeat at Swansea the other day I asked our analyst to pull the table up from the year that QPR went down, the year I was in France.

"After 14 games we only had five points and I think it took them 16 games to win a game. So comparatively we're light years ahead."

Rangers' impressive form at home is in stark contrast to their results on the road where they have lost to Tottenham, Manchester United, Southampton, West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle and Swansea this season.

Redknapp's side are the only team in England's top four divisions yet to register a single point away from home and Barton admits it's a problem that needs addressing.

"We have lost seven out of seven on the road but without making excuses, we haven't been to the easiest places," Barton said.

"We haven't played teams in and around us. That will be the test for us. We've been to some of the tougher places in the league.

"I think everyone we've played away has been in the top 10 at the time we've played them.

"We're very mindful that we've got to improve our away form."

Rangers' awaydays do not get any easier as they travel to Everton and Arsenal before the end of the year either side of home games against West Brom and Crystal Palace.

The bottom half of the table remains congested ahead of the busy Christmas calendar with only five points separating QPR in 17th and Aston Villa in 11th.

"If you string back-to-back wins together in this league you can propel yourself up the table," Barton said.

"That's how tight it is. That's why people tune in. The Premier League is so competitive.

"Chelsea's "Invincibles" all of a sudden go to Newcastle, Newcastle with their eighth-choice goalkeeper or whatever - and all of a sudden he comes on and they go on and beat Chelsea.

"There's not many other leagues where that happens. I've just seen on the TV, Real Madrid (have recorded an) 18th straight win.

"Arsenal went unbeaten for a year but I can't see anyone banging 18 wins out on the spin, not in this league, not with how competitive it is.

"There's a different element here, which is why people tune in from all over the globe."

Second-half goals from Leroy Fer and Charlie Austin ensured Rangers took maximum points against Burnley but there was disappointment too as Austin was sent off and will subsequently miss next Monday's match at Everton.

"He's our top scorer, he's been the difference for us at various times this season," Barton added.

"To be without him is going to be a massive loss."

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