Hughes: I'll axe Barton from QPR team if performances aren't good enough
23:02 GMT, 23 March 2012
Mark Hughes has warned Joey Barton he is not afraid to drop his club captain – or any other player – at Queens Park Rangers.
Hughes, who axed star winger Shaun Wright-Phillips from the team that beat Liverpool on Wednesday, is tempted to start at Sunderland with Jamie Mackie, who came on for Barton and scored the winning goal against Kenny Dalglish's side.
That would mean putting Barton on the bench for the first time since Hughes took over from Neil Warnock, but the manager said: '(It is) not really (difficult to drop a club captain). I pick teams I feel will win Premier League matches.
Defiant: Hughes hauled Barton off and introduced match-winner Jamie Mackie
'I have to make sure the balance of the team is right, plus energy levels and the ability to go to a difficult place away from home.
'There was some criticism of Joey, maybe a little frustration, and Joey bore the brunt of it. He's big enough to take that. Joey wasn't having the best of evenings.
'Irrespective of your standing in the squad, you still have to perform. I reserve the right to make a judgment on what I see at any given time.'
Below-par: Even Barton admitted that his performance against Liverpool wasn't good enough