THINK smart, train smart, play smart, drive...Smart. Striker Ashley Barnes does all of the above, to the letter.
In a car park packed with vehicles becoming of a modern day Championship footballer – top of the range Audis, BMWs, Porsches – Barnes’ modest motor might look out of place, albeit still a Mercedes. But he doesn’t care.
“I’ve had a few bits of stick from it but until it breaks down on me, it’s staying,” said the 24-year-old of his trusty grey Smart car.
“Where I was living previously in Brighton was only 15 minutes from training and it was all country lanes, so it was perfect.
“I’ve had it two years now and I just wanted a second car as a few lads lived close to where I was living before, so we car shared and I just needed a little run-around.
“And Brighton is the worst place for parking, so to get in and out of town it was fantastic.
“It’s phenomenal on petrol too, I can’t go wrong.
“I don’t care what people think, I’m just one of those guys who gets on with it and I can take as much stick as possible.
“I didn’t even think I could go on a motorway with it, but I’ve brought it with me and I love it! So does Junior,” added Barnes, whose two-man car school with Stanislas has now increased to three with the addition of striker Sam Vokes.
“I have to take my wife’s car (a Range Rover Evoque) for that but I'm happy to stay in the Smart car for as long as possible.”
The same goes for Barnes staying in the side, after getting his chance following injury to top scorer Danny Ings.
He grabbed his first goal for the club in only his second start, sparking Saturday’s 3-0 win at Charlton Athletic – a moment which the former Brighton front man admits gave him a release.
“Getting the goal was probably a bit of a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “You could say there’s an expectancy when I’m filling in for Danny but I’m here to play my part.
“I’ve come in and hopefully I can score as many goals between now and the end of the season.
“The main aim is to score goals. Everyone will look at me and think about goals. Hopefully I can get on the scoresheet again.
“I can relax a bit more now and hopefully crack on and get a few more.”
Barnes would have had a quickfire second but for Charlton goalkeeper Ben Hamer denying him from point blank range.
“Maybe I headed one too cleanly and it’s hit the keeper rather than him reacting, if I mis-headed it it would probably have gone in,” said the striker, who insists he has had no complaints about having to bide his time behind the prolific partnership of Vokes and Ings to get into the side following his January move from Brighton.
“It didn’t take much thinking to come here. The lads were flying and I just wanted to be on board with a great squad and a great manager,” Barnes added.
“After speaking to him it was a deal done. I knew I wasn’t going to play, you can’t just come in and expect that.
“I’m here to fight for my chance and that’s what I will do until the end of the season.
“It’s been very exciting for me, jumping in with the boys that have been on fire all season.
“Unfortunately Danny got injured and it’s given me a chance to start the last two, which has been good, but we need him back as soon as possible, as well as Kieran (Trippier).
“Like I said when I first came in, as long as Sam and Danny keep scoring I’m happy to sit on the bench – that’s not a problem and I just want to do well when I get my chance or opportunity on the pitch.”
But for now at least Barnes is in the driving seat, with Vokes – as are Burnley in the race for promotion, 10 points clear in second, five points behind Leicester with the leaders to play on Saturday, and just eight games to go after tonight’s visit of Doncaster Rovers.
But the former Plymouth protege maintains there will be no mention of promotion at Turf Moor until such time that it is secured.
“It’s just about the next game, that’s all it is. After tonight it will be Saturday – it’s always just one game at a time,” added Barnes.
“The group has been relentless since I arrived. It’s a massive word among the camp and we use it nearly every day in every sentence. That’s what we need to be again.
“We will only talk about the Premier League once it has happened.”