Heavy fixture period not worrying Leon Barnett, as he gives his Nottingham Forest preview.
Leon Barnett has been involved in 41 of Wigan Athletic’s 43 games so far this season, missing only Latics’ first game in the Europa League against Zulte Waregem, and the FA Cup fifth round against his former club Cardiff City.
He’s one of the most featured players across the European leagues this season, but the 28-year-old admitted he hadn’t even noticed:
“I haven’t really thought about it because the season has gone so quickly, I’ve just been getting on with things without really thinking about how many matches I’ve played.
“In December there was a period of games every Saturday and Tuesday or Sunday and Wednesday and it just flew by.
“I’ve been really enjoying playing so many matches because that’s what I’m here to do; I want to play as many games as I can.”
“To hit 40 games in any season is a massive achievement, but to be playing at a club like this and with the ambitions that we have it makes me even happier.
“At Norwich City I only played 51 games in the whole three years down there and I’ve nearly reached that mark already this season, it’s amazing really.”
Asked whether the physical demand of over 40 games has taken its toll on him, Barnett replied:
“To be honest I don’t really dwell on how it feels physically to be playing so many matches, I just look forward to challenging myself every time I step out onto the pitch.
“I was speaking to a few of the boys and we were discussing how it feels like we’ve played two seasons rather than one because of how many matches we’ve played.
“We’ve got even more games in front of us, but we’re completely ready for it and we’ll keep fighting to make sure the league table looks good for us at the end of the season.”
Another of Latics’ most featured players this season is Emmerson Boyce, central defensive partner of Barnett in recent games and somebody he is still learning from:
“I’ve loved playing alongside Boycey at the back.
“He’s such a relaxed character in the changing room and then when he’s on the pitch he’s a leader, playing alongside somebody like that is a dream for any defender.
“I don’t know if he’ll appreciate it, but for somebody of his age to be playing week in week out is a massive achievement and a brilliant example of just how committed he is.
“When I see Boycey playing I’m still learning from him and I pick up new things all of the time from him.
“He has been excellent for us this season and he has been every single year he’s been at this club.”
After the stiff test the pair faced last weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion, Barnett expects a similar challenge against Nottingham Forest:
“If we want to get promoted we’ve got to beat the toughest teams.
“Hopefully we can do the same this weekend against Forest as we did against Brighton.
“It’s going to be just as hard as Brighton, but Forest have their own style and they made it difficult for us when we played them at home.
“They haven't won in three games now so they’ll be desperate to turn their form around.”
“We’re two very similar teams in the respect that they want to stay in the play-off places and we want to be there come the end of the season.”