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Barton determined to play a key role in chase for promotion

Joey Barton is nearing a return to fitness and is determined to play a key part in Newcastle United's quest for promotion to the Premier League.

The Magpies sit top of the Championship, but Barton has had to sit out much of the campaign thanks to a foot injury.

The 27-year-old told the Evening Chronicle: "I just want to focus on playing football now.

"The team have done a great job this season, and so has [manager] Chris Hughton, [assistant] Colin Calderwood and the rest of the backroom lads.

"Now I just want to get back and play a part in helping this team back into the Premier League."

Barton has not played for the first-team since limping off during the 3-1 victory over Plymouth in September and is keen to finally show the fans what he can do on a sustained basis.

He added: "The fans have been brilliant and as players we just want to help deliver Premier League football back to them.

"During my injury, the fans have wished me all the best.

"It's still a big club and that's one of the reasons I came here.

"The fans have been great with me and now I just want to do the business on the pitch again."

Barton played 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Hibernian last week and manager Chris Hughton is eager for the fiery midfielder to return to action.

Speaking on Tuesday, Hughton said: "He plays in the reserves and that will only be his second game - he played 45 minutes of a game here at the training ground.

"What we have to be mindful of and careful of is that this is a player that has been out for a long period of time and what he needs is to get enough match practice under his belt.

"What we have said is to get a fit and ready Joey Barton back in the squad is a plus for us.

"What we want is as much competition as possible going into this last part of the season, and whatever contribution he can make, however many games that is, then it will be very welcome."

Meanwhile January signing Wayne Routledge is back in training after missing the last four games with a calf injury.

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