Clarets striker Ashley Barnes shared a mischievous smile when questioned about his on-field antics ahead of today’s clash with Sunderland.
The 25-year-old, who worked with Black Cats boss Gus Poyet at Brighton, refused to divulge the full catalogue of tricks and traits prior to the trip to the Stadium of Light, but rejoiced in the fact that he’s grown to be a nuisance for some of the most esteemed defenders in the country.
With four goals and an assist in his last 12 outings in England’s top division, Barnes is clearly more than just a pest. But the former Seagull, who learnt his trade at Paulton Rovers in the Southern League First Division, is applying the attributes that saw the likes of Grant Holt, Kevin Davies and John Carew thrive at this level.
“I just try to be a nuisance as much as possible for defenders and if it pays off,” he said. “I do all I can do.
“They’re not really used to it and you can tell that. They’re used to just having the ball and being in control. If you can get amongst them, they don’t like it, that’s for sure.
“It’s just a normal battle but in the Premier League, they’re not used to it.”
The aforementioned trio have all topped the Premier League charts for most fouls conceded in a single season - with Davies peaking at 123 in the 2010/11 term - and Barnes alluded to the statistics that ranked him as the number one offender alongside Leicester City’s Leonardo Ulloa this season.
The striker, who has committed 41 fouls to date, said: “You get defenders moaning at you all the time.
“One of the lads shows me the paper this week and it said I’ve committed the most fouls. So that’s not good, is it? If it helps the team and we stay up then brilliant.
“I think I’ve had it in me from a young age. Everyone will give you a battle for sure, you’ve just got to make sure you come out on top, stick the ball in the back of the net and that’s all you can do.”
In a week that saw the FA impose a three-match ban on Chelsea’s Diego Costa for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can in a Capital One Cup semi-final tie, Barnes added: “You just try and ruffle defences up, it’s just playing the game, really. You can stop counter-attacks, that’s for sure.
“I like to get in amongst it and if there’s an advantage for our team, so be it. If it can help us out, then I’ll do that.
“It’s hard because you’ve got a job to do as well but if you can come out on top, win your aerial battles, and if your game’s going well then you get a few opportunities to get under their skin.
“Hopefully it frees up space for team-mates to go and score or create chances.”