Joey Barton was signalled out for treatment last Saturday against Wolves. Regardless of what Mick McCarthy would have us believe, there was a plan amidst Wolves’ tactics and it was to rile Barton, in the hope that he would react and that maybe Alan Smith would follow. Half the challenges that Barton felt the brunt of were fair; they were tough but ultimately what we like to see in the Premier League and one of the reasons we love it.
To McCarthy’s credit, it was a ploy that could very easily have worked; Barton’s moustache may have gone, but his temper remains, or does it? Barton waited until the final whistle had gone to remonstrate with the Wolves boss, and although he was vocal during the game about his treatment, there were no overzealous actions on his part.
Joey Barton’s struggles with his aggression are hardly a secret, but if anybody was unaware, here goes (deep breath):
Dec 2004: Stubs a cigar in youth player Jamie Tandy’s eye and tries to set fire to his shirt while on tour with Man City.
May 2005: Breaks a man’s leg while driving his car through Liverpool’s city centre.
July 2005: Assaults a 15-year-old Everton fan in Thailand.
Mar 2007: Arrested and cleared of assault and criminal damage.
May 2007: Assaults Ousmane Dabo during training at Man City. Fined £100k and given a 4-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty in court to the charge of assault.
Dec 2007: Arrested for common assault and affray for an incident in Liverpool. Sentenced to 6 months in prison.
Dec 2007: Admits to suffering from alcoholism.
May 2009: After being sent off in a match crucial to Newcastle’s relegation from the Premiership, Alan Shearer calls him “a s***.” He replies that Shearer is “a s*** manager with s*** tactics.”
It is prolific at the very least. The thing is, Barton remains a Premier League player because he is rather good. More than just a tenacious hustler, he both energetic and creative. As valuable as an attacking force, as he is helping the likes of Butt and Smith with his midfield defensive duties. Barton, along with Kevin Nolan, Smith and Sol Campbell are the Premier League experience that most promoted teams simply don’t possess. When Barton kept his nose (relatively) clean during his time at Man City he was one of their best players. Under both Kevin Keegan and Stuart Pearce he was a key part of the side, but there was always the next potential explosion simmering away.
Three games into the season may be jumping the gun, but what Barton showed at Molineux is that he is capable of self-control. It must go against all his natural instincts not to lash out, and yet under immense and relentless pressure, he kept his temper in check. While Newcastle’s squad has good players, it is not the largest, and lengthy and unnecessary suspensions will be the last thing that Chris Houghton needs in his quest to ensure Premier League survival.
An in-form Joey Barton will help take Newcastle onto better things. His goal against Villa, although afforded far too much room, was an example of his quality. Some may argue that he doesn’t deserve to play professional football, that he is an awful role model for children, and while this may or may not be true, it is a debate for another day. But Barton is playing professional football, and playing it well. If it continues then Geordie fans will reap the rewards.
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