Joey Barton described himself as fortunate and privileged to be back at Burnley after making a sensational Turf Moor return.
Barton hit the winner just five minutes after coming off the bench in his first home appearance since re-joining the Clarets for a second spell as Sean Dyche's men beat Southampton 1-0.
And the 34-year-old midfielder made no secret of what it meant to him to be given a second chance at Burnley after leaving “a unique club” in the summer in the aftermath of the Clarets' promotion success.
“The gaffer here, the player and the fans - this football club has invested a lot in me the last few months, so to come on and make an impact and be part of this group is very, very important,” said Barton, who was signed by Dyche as a free agent after his ill-fated spell at Glasgow Rangers was cut short.
“To do what he did in view of what's going on around me, and the circus that goes around me, it's an incredible thing he did to bring me back.
“Hopefully doing that, and turning in performances week-in, week-out will repay some of that faith.
“But it's a real collective effort and it’s just fantastic to be a part of this group again, to be back playing football again and to be in the Premier League.
“This a unique football club and unique group of people. You sometimes have to be not in the building to realise just how special that was and certainly I realised that in the summer.
“I’m very fortunate and feel very privileged to get the opportunity to come back and be part of this again.”
Barton decided a nip-and-tuck encounter 12 minutes from time when his deflected free-kick from 25 yards beat Fraser Forster to secure Burnley;s sixth win in seven home league games in the Premier League.
The former England international asked team-mate Jeff Hendrick to disrupt the Saints’ wall and the ploy worked perfectly as the line of bodies broke perfectly for Barton’s shot to nick off a defender and nestle in the bottom corner.
“From that range and a keeper of Fraser Forster's calibre, you've really got to work him and hit the target. Sometimes going over the wall is the perfect height for him,” added Barton, whose goal was his first in the Premier League since he scored for Queens Park Rangers in April, 2015.
“I just moved Jeff in from the side. It wasn't the cleanest free-kick I’ve ever hit in my life but it means a lot to me personally and to come back to Turf Moor and to do that after coming on after a couple of minds in incredibly special.”
Barton’s strike on his second home ‘debut’ helped the Clarets move above Southampton and into 10th-place in the table as Dyche’s well-organised side kept the EFL Cup semi-finalists at bay, captain Tom Heaton confirming a second clean sheet in three home games with a superb late double save to deny ex-Claret Jay Rodriguez and teenage substitute Josh Sims.
“Our home form keeps going. Tom Heaton made a couple of massive saves but it's a real collective effort here. I’m really proud of the lads," said Barton, who has signed a deal until the end of the season.
“It was a fantastic performance and it's just an absolute privilege to be part of this group.”