Andrew Johnson hopes 'great lad' Joey Barton stays with QPR

• Midfielder's reluctance to stay at QPR belied by performance
• Barton creates decisive goal against Sheffield Wednesday

Necessity may also be the mother of reconciliation. Queen's Park Rangers and Joey Barton were happy to be apart last season but a lack of better offers has forced them back together and suddenly there is a chance that their union could last.

The midfielder still hankers after a return to Marseille following last term's loan spell there and QPR still want to shift many of their highest earners, but unless the French club find a way to pay the midfielder's wages, then Barton will likely remain at Loftus Road – and it turns out that, whatever the accountants say, a lot of people connected with the club want him there. Good riddance has become welcome back.

If it was a surprise to see Barton named in Rangers' starting lineup for the opening match of their Championship campaign just a few months after he scoffed at the notion of lowering himself to the second tier, it was amazing to hear the home fans give such a hearty greeting to a player who has let down the club in the past and made it clear he would prefer to be elsewhere.

Whether the outpouring of affection has helped change his mind remains to be seen but even Barton tweeted afterwards that he did not deserve the acclaim he got from the home crowd, declaring himself "humbled" by their support.

But while he may not have merited the cheers before kick-off, he did earn the ovation he received on leaving the pitch thanks to a performance which proved that, whatever his flaws, he has the quality to help QPR achieve promotion.

He could, though, have been sent off for tripping Jacques Maghoma moments after being booked, but neither foul was down to nastiness, more to the rustiness of a player who had not featured in any pre-season matches.

Otherwise, his passing was impressive and one of several surges into the box led to the winning goal, his header being parried by Chris Kirkland into the path of Andy Johnson, who fired into the net three minutes after Nedum Onuoha had cancelled out Atdhe Nuhiu's goal for an impressive Sheffield Wednesday.

Johnson says that, contrary to popular perception, Barton can help build the team spirit that was missing last season. "He is a great lad," he said. "I have gelled well with him off the field. He is great to have around the place. I think the fans have seen what he can do here so he will be an asset if he stays.

"I wouldn't say I know him well but we speak a bit and it's nice to spend time with him. You hear all the stuff surrounding Joey but it's good to see him back and see for yourself how influential he is.

"With his commitment [against Wednesday], you didn't see any signs of him not wanting to be here or not wanting to play in the Championship. He is fantastic and nobody will ever question his ability, talent or commitment to the team."

It would still raise eyebrows if Barton remained at the club for the rest of the season but it would be a sensation if he were joined there by Jermain Defoe. Yet rumours persist that Harry Redknapp is trying to persuade the England striker to drop down from the Premier League in a World Cup year.

Redknapp has signed Defoe at three previous clubs but, even with his place at Tottenham Hotspur in jeopardy following their signing of Roberto Soldado, he has never had so much to lose by hooking up with the manager.

Still, Johnson reckons Defoe could come to QPR. "Of course QPR could attract him, why not?" he said. "He's worked under Harry before and he's worked with Jermaine Jenas and a few of the old Tottenham boys, there are a lot of people here who could attract him.

"We don't need to speak how big the club is, the club's massive. It's got massive backing, the chairman's been fantastic, it'll be great to give him something back. And Jermain's record speaks for itself. England, Tottenham, Portsmouth, everywhere he's been he's wanted to score goals and he's a great player, a great finisher. He'll be a great person to have here, hopefully it happens."

Man of the match Alejandro Faurlín (QPR)

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