NEWCASTLE midfielder Joey Barton is not allowing his run-in with the American authorities to hamper his preparations for the new season.
The 28-year-old is not on the club’s US tour after being denied an entry visa because of his criminal record, and instead travelled to Holland as part of Peter Beardsley’s development squad.
Barton scored and saw a penalty hit the post in last night’s 2-2 draw with Hollandia, and despite his disappointment at not being allowed to prepare with the rest of the first-team, he is already looking forward to Arsenal’s visit to St James’ Park on the opening day of the new Barclays Premier League campaign.
He said: “Every season’s a big season and at a club like Newcastle, there’s no time to rest on your laurels.
“You’ve got to keep pushing on and we have invested in a few players who all look to be good additions to the squad.
“It’s all about kicking on and building on what we did last season.
“That’s pre-season and whether you’re out with the lads in Holland, like I am now, or with the first-team in America, I think the key is being right for August 13 against Arsenal.
“That’s the one everyone’s aiming at.”
Barton, of course, has spent the summer at the centre of speculation that he could leave Tyneside with his contract due to expire next summer and no new offer on the table.
He has vowed to see out the remaining 12 months of his existing deal and having returned to his best form last season, is hoping for more of the same.
He said: “To be honest, pre-season is vital so whether it’s here or any other country, you just want to get games under your belt and try to get that bit of sharpness and blast off a few of the cobwebs from the summer.
“I was fortunate that I stayed fit and played the vast majority of last season, and we only had six-and-a-bit weeks off so it’s not like I was going to lose a massive amount of fitness.
“I came back in reasonably good shape and I’ve managed to score a couple of goals in pre-season, which is always nice.
“I’m feeling quite sharp and I felt really strong as the Hollandia game went on.
“I could probably easily have played 90 minutes but as it is, I got a nice 65 minutes under my belt, had a lot of touches of the ball and really enjoyed it.”