If I had been given the reins at a Premier League club this summer, the first thing I would have done is BAN Twitter. I am all for freedom of speech. But footballers are not the brightest – and they say some daft things. Joey Barton might just be one of the few who could win a round or two on a TV game show, but why he feels the need to go on Twitter to air his every thought is a mystery to me.
In fact, why anyone wants to tell the public, “just been to the khazi again, too much coffee this morning”, is beyond me. Can you imagine Dave Mackay doing that? Not likely. If he had a problem, he would sort it out himself. Mind you, Danny Blanchflower would almost certainly have had an account. He did like to talk to everybody, did Danny. But he was a serious intellect, so the average punter would not have had a clue what he was twittering on about anyway. He wouldn’t have just quoted a line from George Orwell, as Barton did, he’d have quoted the whole book.
Perhaps airing all this in public has a lot to do with Joey being an alcoholic – where the need to reconcile yourself with everybody and life in general seems overwhelming. Maybe that is what’s happening to Barton right now. Nothing wrong in that. If he is genuine, then great, but if not he will soon be found out.
When I was sold to AC Milan I didn’t want to go, then I was persuaded it would be great to go and that I should take it further. When I went to see Milan I was with a solicitor who said, “Right, we’re going to get you out of the deal.” It turned out he was there to make sure it went through. I was betrayed by Chelsea and sold down the line, but I don’t think it would have helped anybody if I’d put that on Twitter.
So if I was in charge I’d say: “Look, lads, we’re going to stop this for everybody’s protection. We want a bit of privacy within the club. We’re not going to ban freedom of speech, just don’t do it yourself on Twitter.” Sure as anything, these twits will come a cropper – they are guaranteed to say something that no one at their club wants to hear. And people outside the game are more likely to take things the wrong way.
There is a way with football which is difficult to understand. I have seen players almost come to blows in a practice match and then wander across to the pub together afterwards for a pint. That does not happen in normal life. And I don’t care what people say, Twitter is not a great way for fans to interact with their heroes, either. A lot of people say players have lost touch with fans these days but I don’t see this as a way of redressing that, it’s just feeding the peasants a few crumbs.
To be fair to Barton, I have always admired him as a footballer. He has been a really good player and could have been a lot better if he’d had the right attitude. He has done some stupid things – we all have – and it’s a shame because he is underestimated as a player and has real ability.
The one manager I am surprised lets his players go on Twitter is Alex Ferguson. Funnily enough, there has been talk of Manchester United interest in Barton and it would not surprise me if he ended up there. I believe it would be the making of him – it’s the one place where Barton would know from the start who’s boss.