By Rob Stewart
Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock has all the qualities to ensure Joey Barton prospers in a “match made in heaven”, according to the manager's former assistant.
As Warnock prepares to hand Barton his Rangers debut against former club Newcastle United at Loftus Road on Monday night, his former right-hand man Kevin Blackwell has backed his close friend to use his man-management skills to ensure the controversial player become a major asset to the west London club.
“Neil might not be the best in the business in terms of tactics but he is as good as anyone else in the Premier League in terms of man management – right up there with people like Sir Alex Ferguson and that augurs well for Joey at QPR,” Blackwell told Goal.com.
“Neil has a knack of being able to see what is good in people and knowing how to press the right button. It’s an instinctive thing with Neil. He is one of those people who do with naturally.
“He seems to know how to do it without thinking too deeply about it and that will make sure that Joey and Neil will be a match made in heaven. They are both very strong characters but Joey will know in no uncertain terms who is the boss and I am certain that they will hit it off just fine.”
Barton has had well-documented disciplinary problems on and off the field and his outspoken views on the Newcastle regime prompted the St James’ Park club to offer him a free transfer that saw him move to QPR last month.
Former Sheffield United and Leeds United manager Blackwell is adamant Warnock has what it takes to make sure that he keeps Barton on the straight and narrow.
“He won’t try to tame Joey because, as far as Neil is concerned, that is not what the art of management requires when it comes to players like Joey,” Blackwell added.
“He will have to deal with Joey’s quirks but he is as good as anybody when it comes to getting the best out of people in that way and I don’t think Neil will fall out with him.
“It’s down to the art of management – bringing the best out of Joey, knowing what sort of character he is."
Blackwell, Warnock's assistant during their eight-year tenure at Bramall Lane, added: “With Joey’s record you are not quite sure how he will handle it because it is the first time that he has played football in London, so a lot of things could come into play that at this moment in time no one could predict.
“That’s what makes so interesting but I am sure that it will turn out to be a good move for Joey, for Neil and for the club as a whole as they set about making sure they stay in the Premier League.
“Joey is a very good player who could make all the difference to Rangers this season and Neil will do his level best to make sure that is the case.”
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