GILES BARNES will be gutted if his £2million deal with Fulham fails to go through after suffering a catalogue of injuries since he arrived on loan in January.
And if the worst comes to the worst - part of the blame for the failure of the Derby County midfielder to make his mark at Craven Cottage will be laid four-square on a prized pair of boots.
The offending footwear were the 21-year-old's pride and joy after he hit a brace against Manchester United in the Carling Cup semi-final two months ago - now they're on his mantelpiece.
"I've set my heart on staying with Fulham," he said.
"It's a really nice club, and if they want to extend my stay I'd be very happy to do so. It would be disappointing to go back to Derby, because I believe I can play at this [Premiership] level.
"But it's been a frustrating time - not just at Fulham - but the last 13 months. Just when you build yourself up for two weeks or something, there's been another setback.
"I had a heel problem, which came from the boots that scored two goals against Manchester United - and I wanted to continue with them - but now they're a souvenir."
However, Barnes is now back to something like full fitness after a series of reserve and behind-closed-doors friendlies, and posted a timely reminder that the last time he faced Steven Gerrard and Liverpool - who visit Fulham on Saturday - he got the better of the Reds midfield maestro.
Barnes said: "I got the job of marking Gerrard two seasons ago and, to be fair, I did well.
"He became Superman in the last two minutes and scored the only goal of the game -but it wasn't my fault. By then I had been moved up front from centre-midfield."
It's the latter position Barnes wants to make his own at Fulham once he makes his first appearance, preferably playing behind the front two, after boss Roy Hodgson admitted he got the England U19 player because he offered 'something different'.
Barnes said: "Success would be just to show people what I can do, whether that's 20 minutes or six games - I'll take whatever I can get.
"But at the moment, with the team playing so well, I'll have to wait my chance. Ronaldinho would find it hard to get in a winning team." [25cf] Giles Barnes was on hand to meet and thrill the youngsters at Hurlingham Park, Fulham, on Tuesday.
Fulham's Easter Holiday Soccer Courses are taking place at various venues across South West London and Surrey right up to April 17. For further information, or to book a course, visit www.fulhamfc.com or call 0870 442 5432.