GILES Barnes would love nothing more than to put one over his former employers tomorrow afternoon.
The prodigiously talented midfielder is relishing the prospect of seeing some familiar faces as Doncaster Rovers prepare to lock horns with Derby County.
It was at Pride Park where Barnes first burst onto the scene. He made his professional debut at the tender age of 17 and went on to score 13 goals in 95 appearances for the Rams.
Indeed, Barnes featured prominently in Derby securing promotion to the top flight in 2007, creating Stephen Pearson’s winner in the Championship Play-Off final victory over West Bromwich Albion at Wembley.
“I had some great times at Derby,” he told The Star. “I have a lot of time for the people down there and it will be good to catch up with them. It is a great club with great fans.”
Injuries hampered Barnes’s development and Derby released the attack-minded central midfielder in December 2009.
He said: “Apart from the injuries I suffered there, I don’t really have a bad memory of Derby. I got injured twice which were pretty low times for me.
“I dislocated my knee cap and snapped my Achilles tendon which both kept me out for a long time. They were big injuries.”
Two months after being axed by Derby, Barnes joined WBA, who showed him the door last summer, paving the way for a switch to Rovers.
Barnes, in just his third start for the South Yorkshire club, made an emotional first return to Pride Park earlier on in the season but he could not stop Sean O’Driscoll’s side from sliding to a 3-0 defeat.
“This is just another game for me,” he insisted. “They thumped us at Pride Park so we owe them for that one. We were not at the races then so hopefully we can rectify that this weekend.”
One person in particular Barnes is looking forward to speaking to and sharing a drink with after the Championship encounter is striker Steven Davies.
“It will be good to see Steve again,” he said. “We still speak a fair bit.
“He has had some horrific injuries too over the years and bounced back brilliantly from them. He has showed tremendous mental strength to do that.”
Following a sustained run in Rovers starting line-up, Barnes reckons the fans are beginning to the see the best of him: “I’m playing well at the moment but there is still more to come from me,” he said. “I must be doing something right because the manager keeps on picking me.
“I’ve got to keep making sure he keeps selecting me. I have settled into more of a midfield role instead of my more normal attacking number 10 role.
“I’ve learned to adapt to playing in central midfield in a two so I’ve just got to keep performing to keep the shirt.”
Barnes reckons Rovers have to be more ruthless in front of goal to climb out of the Championship relegation zone.
However, he has played down the significance of the forthcoming home matches with Derby and Millwall, saying.
He said: “We have got some big away fixtures coming up at Southampton and Leicester so we have to carry on proving to people that we can compete with everyone at this level. Every single match is vital for us.
“We have got to keep picking up points where people wouldn’t necessarily expect us to like we did against West Ham.
“We are doing the right things. At West Ham, we had a few chances where we could have nicked it but the goalkeeper pulled of some great saves.
“I think we need to be more clinical in front of goal and if we do that, we can get out of the trouble we are in.”
Teams and ref
ROVERS (possible): Ikeme; Chimbonda, Martis or Hird, Beye, Spurr; Coppinger, Gillett, Barnes, Bennett; Diouf, Piquionne (4-4-2).
DERBY (possible): Fielding; Green, Buxton, Shackell, Roberts; Bryson, Kendrick, B Davies, Tyson; S Davies, Robinson (4-4-2).
DAVID COOTE (Nottingham): Has issued 73 cautions and five red cards in 26 matches this term. This will be the first time in his career Coote has officiated in a Rovers game.
Kevin Kilbane, Steven Davies and Ben Davies were on target as the Ram cruised to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Rovers at Pride Park in August. Derby shade the head-to-head record 11-7 overall from 20 meetings.