Repayment time at St James Park

Since arriving at St James Park almost three years ago, football fans have seen it all from Joey Barton. Assaults, injury anguish, rows, suspensions and even jail but perhaps his biggest crime of all is not repaying the unconditional loyalty shown to him by Newcastle’s infamous Toon Army.

By his own frank admission he “owes Newcastle United” and what better time to reimburse the fans as they gear up for a challenging Premier League season.

Some people would suggest that football should have longed turned its back on Barton due to his mindless thuggery both off and sometimes on the pitch and whilst I do not condone his list of crimes perhaps this is the year he will rehabilitate a career we all know holds so much talent.

The growth of his comical moustache to build team spirit at Newcastle does not hide his previous sins but it shows a willingness to sacrifice his “hard man” image in order to aid Newcastle’s fight for survival next season. The midfielder sported the facial hair as he helped the Geordies to a penalty shoot-out win against Deportivo La Coruna in the Riazor Stadium and lift the ‘prestigious’ Trofeo Teresa Herrera Cup.

Bushy Barton has done his bit in pre-season and he was also a huge part of Newcastle’s promotion from the Championship last year. The free-kick against Peterborough was wonderful and his pass for Routledge to bag a memorable goal was undoubtedly Premier League class and if Chris Hughton can coax Barton back into the player he was at Man City it will be very much like a “new signing.”

The player himself will hope that in perhaps what is his last chance, the monotonous regularity of his behaviour will be clouded out by a good season on the pitch and build up a rapport with the fans.

He recently insisted he is “as good as anybody in this country” whilst adding “If I can sustain fitness for a long period of time, I’m very confident of finding the form that got me in the England squad”.

In this case however, given his troubled past, talk, and unless spoken on the pitch is cheap. Newcastle United will hope that he has finally turned a corner that seemed so far away and that he will cast aside the demons which are scrutinised so much more in the Premier League than in the Championship.