Dougie Freedman believes the signing of Joey Barton has turned Rangers from a top-five club into title contenders.

The former Scotland striker is a fan of the fiery midfielder and wanted to sign him last summer for Nottingham Forest.

He has no concern about Barton’s controversial reputation and is sure that the player will bring that extra competitive edge to the Ibrox engine room and push Celtic all the way.

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Freedman said: “I tried to sign Joey Barton. I had him in a pub in Richmond a year ago. We’d a two-hour chat about coming to Forest. I nearly got there.

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“I got over the first hurdle about football – which was tough. He met the chairman of Forest and couldn’t quite do a deal. And within 48 hours Henri Lansbury, who was going to go to Burnley, stayed at Forest, and Barton went to Burnley.

“I think it’s a very good career move for him, it gives him the opportunity to win things.

“In terms of what is said about him and supposed baggage, you’d need to control it. All top athletes live on the edge. As a manager you want that. You have to keep them on that straight and narrow.

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“Joey’s a good player and very influential in the dressing-room. In terms of signings players I think Rangers have the edge right now, in signing a Joey Barton. They’ve made a little statement there that they’re not going to be content to come up and be fourth or fifth.

“They have to go close as they can to Celtic and Barton’s signing pushes it. Joey’s a serious guy, he’s not taking second-best.”

Freedman has been equally as impressed with Celtic and their appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager.

Evening Times: Chris Davies is assistant to Brendan Rodgers.

He said: “Brendan’s a big fish and very sought-after around the world. I saw him in Dubai a month ago and had a long chat. He took a good bit of time out, had a look at himself and there were a couple of private things.

“He felt he was ready to come back this summer. There’s no doubt when you meet the board of Celtic there’s no doubt about how big the club is, as big as anything.

“He also has a fantastic chance to win trophies. The view is that he deserves a big job and it’s good to see him back. But Mark Warburton is someone I’ve known since Watford under-14 youth team days. That’ll be a fascinating meeting between those two.”

Freedman is currently out of the game. He has managed in the Championship for six years with Crystal Palace, Bolton and Forest and is now taking time to reflect before entering into hid next challenge.

He said: “When you come out of management it gives you time to reflect on what went wrong, what you could’ve done better and have a look and see what way you want to go. I jumped into management at 35, so there have been tough years, some success and some failures.

Evening Times: CONTRASTING FORTUNES: Neil Lennon, right, comes up against Dougie Freedman again today at the City Ground. Picture by Paul Currie/BPI

“It’s relentless. I was talking to Joe Jordan on Friday and he said when you’re in the hot seat life goes by. We’re all looking for that perfect job. I’ll be a little wiser the next time I go in to ask questions and find out what my remit actually is and what expectations are.

“I was sold something at Bolton that didn’t do what it said on the tin. It was that simple. After six weeks I knew that. We missed out on the play-offs on goal difference and if we’d strengthened in January, logic tells you we’d have done it.

“I’d been at Forest as a player, it was a wonderful club and I couldn’t say no. I feel the coaching ability is there but looking back the circumstances were nearly impossible with the transfer embargo.”

*Dougie Freedman was speaking at a media event to promote A&M Scotland Charity. A&M helps more than 2000 boys and girls every week from Scotland’s most deprived areas improve their life chances.