Public spats with Jose Mourinho, dark arts on the pitch and adored by his colleagues - Ashley Barnes arrives at Norwich City as somewhat of a throwback to previous eras of the game. 

The 33-year-old has never been a player seduced by the temptations of the modern game, having graduated through football's non-league playground of hard knocks. 

There is no starry-eyed demeanour about Barnes, but a hardened character which has helped carve his long-standing spell at Burnley in the Premier League and the Championship. 

Barnes' rise to the top of the game is a Cinderella story. It started in Bath, where there is little presence from professional football clubs, let alone scouts tasked with finding diamonds in the rough. 

Until his mid-teens, Barnes played his football as a goalkeeper. As a Manchester United fan he idolised Peter Schmeichel and played alongside ex-Swansea and Celtic winger Scott Sinclair in his local side. 

Alongside his shot-stopping, Barnes was a fly-half for his school whilst playing rugby. He soon transitioned to a striker and was released by Bristol Rovers, rejected by Southampton and opted to turn down footballing scholarships with various schools. 

He ended up plying his trade in the Southern League with Paulton Rovers aged 16 - a club that played Norwich in an FA Cup tie back in 2009 - on £60 a game. 

A prolific run in the side led to Plymouth Argyle calling and offering Barnes an extended trial in their reserve team. He impressed enough to earn an 18-month contract at Home Park. 

Barnes made his debut for the Pilgrims in a League Cup game in 2007, but found first-team opportunities hard to come by and was forced out on loan by then-boss and Ipswich legend Paul Mariner. 

Spells at Oxford United, then in the National League, and Salisbury City fell flat before a hot spell at Eastbourne Borough helped revive his career in the professional game. After a brief spell at Torquay, he moved to Brighton on loan where he netted on his debut 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute. 

The Pink Un: Ashley Barnes got his big break at Brighton and Hove Albion. Ashley Barnes got his big break at Brighton and Hove Albion. (Image: PA Images)

His performances persuaded Brighton to convert it into a permanent move where, dovetailing with Glenn Murray, he helped them move into the Championship. Barnes netted 11 in his first campaign in the second tier with the Seagulls. 

Two more seasons followed before Burnley paid £450,000 for his services to take him to Turf Moor as Sean Dyche's first cash signing for the club. 

Nine years of service in Lancashire has seen him become a club legend for the Clarets - firstly as a key member of Dyche's Burnley side that achieved Premier League longevity and then becoming integral under Vincent Kompany in their title charge this season. 

Barnes was key to Dyche and the way he wanted to play during his lengthy spell in charge of the club. 

The now Everton manager raved about his impact back in 2019 when speaking to Talksport

“Barnsey’s biggest strength is he can adapt to any system we play and whoever he plays with, he brings other players into play as well as doing his own individual role.

“I think one of the main improvements is attention to detail as a centre-forward,” Dyche continued. “The importance of hold-up play, using the strengths you have rather than the things you haven’t – and he does that very well.

“His experiences of the game stand him in good stead working all the way back from Paulton Rovers and the like, doing the hard side of the game, working for your team."

The Pink Un: Ashley Barnes spent eight of his nine years at Burnley playing for Sean Dyche.Ashley Barnes spent eight of his nine years at Burnley playing for Sean Dyche. (Image: PA Images)

Perhaps the most suitable description of Barnes as a player is the one that he gave himself. 

“It’s nice to hear people appreciate you and think I’m not just a battering ram," Barnes told the Times back in 2019. "I’ve worked at it and I have to keep working: I knew that from day one. I know I’m not the best in terms of ability at this level so I have to keep improving and striving.

“I always had the football brain as a kid. I’m not the fastest, I’m maybe not the best finisher, but I’ve worked so hard on those things and every manager has known they can trust me. They bring people in, but in the long run I’m the one who comes out as a first pick because managers know what they’ll get from me, how I will fight for them tooth and nail.

“I think most defenders would say they don’t like playing against me. I work so hard. I don’t like to give them a minute’s rest. That’s my aim every time I go on the pitch. I want to play like it’s a cup final. I want to give it my all and leave them coming off the pitch thinking, ‘I didn’t enjoy that. He’s tough. He will not stop’."

Beyond the rag-to-riches story, there have been moments of controversy. In March 2013, Barnes was handed a seven-game suspension whilst at Brighton for attempting to deliberately trip up the referee against Bolton. 

In 2015, four moments in a game between Burnley and Chelsea, specifically a high tackle on Nemanja Matic, left then-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho fuming. The Portuguese boss delivered a rant against Barnes' actions on Goals on Sunday, describing his actions as 'criminal'. 

How did Barnes respond? He told the Guardian in 2015: “The next day I was at home when a friend texted to say I should put the TV on because Mourinho had gone on Goals on Sunday. I turned it over and then turned it back when he was trying to criticise me. I found it funny."

Barnes found himself embroiled in controversy again when he kissed Cardiff defender Joe Bennett on the nose during an altercation during a Premier League game in 2019. 

The Pink Un: Ashley Barnes is a master of the dark arts. Ashley Barnes is a master of the dark arts. (Image: PA Images)

Perhaps the most serious matter arrived in 2021 when Barnes was arrested for drink driving, fined over £13,000 and banned from driving for 12 months. 

In November last year, Barnes was charged with improper conduct by the FA for comments made in a post-match interview directed towards Blackburn Rovers following Burnley's 1-0 victory over their rivals. He was fined £7,500 as a result. 

But away from the pitch, Barnes was a popular figure in the Burnley dressing room, dragging the standards up in training through his willingness to work and win - even in mini-games and five-a-side matches. 

Barnes reinvented himself under Kompany, playing in a deeper role, and his best football arrived as a second striker throughout his career. 

With Wagner having a preference of playing a front two, it is clear to envisage where he foresees Barnes slotting into his preferred system - and it is an early sign of his willingness to inject experience and mentality into his squad. 

Norwich hope that his mentality and edge will give them an extra dimension that prevents the wilt that came after they conceded in the Championship last season. 

Barnes has one last chapter in his career to write at Carrow Road - he will attack it with the same aggression and willingness to win that has defined his career.