LEE’S ‘HOME’ AND IS ON THE THE HUNT FOR GOALS AGAIN

BARNARD GOES BACK TO HIS ROOTS FOR

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Chris Bai­ley

NO mat­ter where Lee Barnard has played home will al­ways be Southend – and the for­got­ten man is des­per­ate to play the lo­cal hero once more.

The striker is on a mis­sion to reignite his ca­reer af­ter com­ing full cir­cle to sign an end-of-sea­son loan with the Shrimpers, the home­town club he left for Southamp­ton in 2010.

An an­kle in­jury put paid to a promis­ing start at the Saints but, fol­low­ing al­most three years out in the wilder­ness, Barnard jumped at the chance to re­turn to Roots Hall.

A grad­u­ate of Tot­ten­ham’s acad­emy, he had mixed suc­cess from a suc­ces­sion of loans be­fore find­ing his feet at Southend in 2008.

And while it may take a while be­fore the Shrimpers’ sup­port is treated to the Barnard of yes­ter­year – hav­ing plun­dered 37 goals in his first spell – the 29-year-old is not plan­ning on tak­ing a back­seat for long as he bids to earn a per­ma­nent stay.

Rep­u­ta­tion

“When I was at Tot­ten­ham I was go­ing on loan to learn and didn’t re­ally set­tle any­where, but that wasn’t the case at Southend,” said Barnard, who made his first start back at Roots Hall against New­port last week.

“It’s when I started to en­joy my foot­ball more and with that I started to do well. I was play­ing week-in, week-out and we had a good team and good play­ers. When I was younger I went to a cou­ple of their games but I was at West Ham a lot of the time, but I al­ways looked out for their re­sults so it’s nice to be back in my home­town.

“It’s go­ing to take me a few games, I’ve got to get on the pitch first – I feel fit but not match fit.

“It’s amaz­ing be­ing back, I’ve had a great re­cep­tion. The fans have al­ways been be­hind me and though I’m not quite where I want to be yet it’s been fan­tas­tic to have their sup­port.

“Though I love the club I wanted to make sure the man­ager (Phil Brown) wanted me and he said all the right things, he has a great record, a great rep­u­ta­tion and re­ally made my mind up.

“I still have am­bi­tions my­self and it’s im­por­tant the club and I were on the same wave­length, get­ting back to League One is the big­gest pri­or­ity.

“I can’t live on what I have done, I’ve got to prove my­self again now I’m here. There’s talk of a per­ma­nent move so fin­gers crossed, but it’s one of those things that’s out of your hands. I’ve got to con­cen­trate on get­ting back play­ing.”

While Southamp­ton have en­joyed a thrill ride back to the Premier League, Barnard says his own time at St Mary’s was a roller­coaster of a dif­fer­ent kind.

Rickie Lam­bert may have been the saviour on the South Coast yet Barnard proved him­self an able foil to the big man with 23 strikes in an 18-month pe­riod, end­ing in pro­mo­tion from League One.

How­ever, while team­mates Lam­bert and Adam Lal­lana, right, have gone on to sparkle in the top flight and with Eng­land, Barnard’s own story took a sour turn at the peak of his pow­ers in 2011.

He rup­tured an­kle lig­a­ments just a few weeks be­fore the Saints booked their place in the Cham­pi­onship – and Southamp­ton had ar­guably moved on by the time Barnard found his way back onto the pitch seven months later.

Crack

Only last year did Barnard re­turn to regular first-team ac­tion – on loan at Bournemouth and Old­ham – but de­spite his rot­ten luck, he cer­tainly does not re­gret his time with the club.

“I prob­a­bly didn’t have a fair crack at the Cham­pi­onship,” he added. “I had a bad in­jury, go­ing over and rup­tur­ing all my an­kle lig­a­ments to­wards the end of our last sea­son in League One.

“At the start I didn’t have surgery but it was not good, it def­i­nitely didn’t feel quite right. Af­ter I came back it took a lit­tle while to get back up to speed, and then I was told I was sur­plus to re­quire­ments.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing, I was told to go out on loan but still thought I could have had a big chance to make it in the Cham­pi­onship – that’s how foot­ball can go though.

“It was good to go out and get my fit­ness back and I still had some years on my con­tract. But I had some good times there, even if it didn’t re­ally work out for large parts of it.

“The ini­tial move was good for me and fi­nan­cially for Southend, and it was one of those things where I was very am­bi­tious and when a club like Southamp­ton came in I had to go re­ally but I’m glad to be back.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

NOW A GULL: Jack Rudge BACK IN TOWN: Lee Barnard, right, cel­e­brates a goal in his first spell at Southend

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