Striker Ashley Barnes is thankful to Sunderland boss Gus Poyet for providing a path to the Premier League.
But that’s where the gratitude ends for the former Seagull as the pair are reunited at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The Uruguayan was pivotal in the 25-year-old’s development at the AMEX Stadium as he snapped up the forward once his loan deal from Plymouth Argyle to Torquay United was cut short.
Barnes, who has a solitary cap for Austria Under 20s, thrived under the stewardship of the one-time Chelsea midfielder and netted four times in eight games at the end of the 2009/10 League One campaign, which included a debut goal in a 3-0 win over Tranmere Rovers.
After signing for Brighton on a permanent basis in the summer Barnes went on to play another 138 times under Poyet, scoring 43 goals and earning promotion to the Championship during that period.
“It was fantastic,” said Barnes. “I loved every minute there. I came away from there with a new challenge and I’m doing alright here. He’s all about passing, keeping possession and we’re going to need to be at our game and defend for 90 minutes and score at the other end. We’ll go there and try and do that.
“Of course I don’t want them to win, I want to get one over on them. We’ll be friends before the game, after the game, but as soon as that whistle goes it’s concentrating on your job and that’s all you can do. As soon as you cross that white line you’re enemies.”
He added: “It’s fantastic (to be in the Premier League), you can’t ask for much more. All I can do is fight for my shirt and I’m lucky enough to have kept it for now.”
Just one goal separates Sean Dyche’s side and the Black Cats in the table, but Barnes is confident that the Clarets can vanquish the heartache suffered against Crystal Palace and leapfrog their opponents at the weekend.
“Every game is massive in this league, like we’ve said all the time,” he said. “We’ll go there looking for the three points and nothing else. They’ve got some great players there and I’m quite familiar with the way Gus plays from when I was with him at Brighton.
“It will be a tough game but hopefully we will go there and get the three points. We’re 100 per cent confident of doing that, I believe in myself, my ability and my team-mates so we can go there and get the three points.”
Barnes, who has netted four times this season, added: “We’ve definitely got the character to recover. You’ve seen it. We’ve lost before and we’ve bounced back against good teams and we’ll do that again. It’s a fighting zone down the bottom and we knew we were in for a fight.”