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Rebel To Rolemodel?

Joey Barton attempts to smile

Newcastle’s Joey Barton recently stated to the media that he has finally overcome the problems that have dogged his career for the last two or three years.

Indeed, his violent tendency to hit people (or just stub out cigars in their eyes) prompted a swift exit from his first club Man. City and time in prison for assault two years ago.

“I took the punishment on the chin and have tried to become a better man since. For some people that will never be enough, but today I am satisfied with who I am and the journey I’ve had to take,” he told Sky Sports News.

“A lot of kids won’t look at the Beckhams and the Owens as role models. Maybe they’ll look at Joey Barton and think, ‘He made lots of mistakes, he went to jail and he came back’.

“That’s what drives me on – to be a shining light to people who messed up.”

This kind of statement often passes without comment but when you actually consider what the 27-year-old has done, it becomes all the more resonant. In fact, when I let my kids look up to the likes of Joey Barton it will be on a cold day in hell.

But, I find myself searching for answers. Why do I find this incredulous statement an affront to my sensibilities and why do I vilify Joey Barton as the Premier League’s devil incarnate? This, I shall now attempt to answer.

Those perhaps more pious than me might think it’s a tad harsh to simply write somebody off as an unhinged lunatic. To label people and make sweeping generalisations about them based on a tiny collection of events in their lives is surely wrong and yes, he went to prison, but so do lots other people. Last I heard he was doing a load of charity stuff for people with addiction problems and youngsters who turn to crime and get into trouble. That means he’s a decent bloke who deserves our forgiveness doesn’t it? Not to my mind.

Like suffering from death by a thousand cuts, his misdemeanours and shameful episodes of violence are so numerous that his reputation has taken a hit from which it will never recover. Over the space of four years the public were slowly drip fed a litany of horrendous assaults (both verbal and physical) that Joey had metered out to teammates and Joe Public alike.

It all started well for him and two years after making his debut for Man. City, he was awarded the club’s 2003/04 Young Player of the Year Award. However, this marked the watershed of his honeymoon period and it rapidly went downhill from there on in.

In July 2004 he sparked a 10-man brawl during a practice match with Doncaster Rovers after ruthlessly hacking down an opposition player. Then came along the infamous cigar incident when he used youth team player Jamie Tandy’s eye socket as an ashtray at the club’s Christmas party. Unimpressed with Barton’s antics, Manchester City considered sacking him there and then and probably now wish they had. He eventually apologized and forked out £60,000 in fines.

The following summer, Barton was sent home early from a preseason tour of Thailand after assaulting a 15-year-old Everton fan who was forced to pay a heavy price for yelling abuse at him. He had to be physically restrained by teammate Richard Dunne from nearly killing the poor boy before manager Stuart Pearce sent him on an anger management course and fined him £120,000.

His behaviour appeared to improve with therapy until in September 2006 he was shown on live television baring his backside to Everton fans. The FA did not look kindly on this childish and petulant exhibition and fined him for bringing the game into disrepute.

Barton decided that it was time to let his mouth do the talking and seemingly sensibly discovered that the need for violence can often be circumvented through proper discussion and verbal exchange. Unfortunately, all that it achieved was instead of physically hurting people, Barton would insult them instead and Stuart Pearce was forced to ban him from speaking to the media after he rather unfairly branded several of his teammates ‘substandard’ following the 2006/07 season.

This regrettable incident ushered in Barton’s first brush with law and the final chapter of his career at Eastlands. The midfielder was to receive a four month suspended sentence and community service in May 2007 for a viscous training ground assault on Ousmane Dabo on whom he inflicted several head injuries. Barton’s career should really have been over at this point but despite the altercation with Dabo and his growing reputation as a mindless thug, Newcastle came to his rescue and signed him for £5.8m.

The Toon were rewarded for handing him a fresh start less than a year later with Barton being jailed for his part in another violent assault. Astonishingly Newcastle stuck by him and he would go on to form an integral part of the side that won the Championship Title last season.

For all is undoubted merits as a footballer, here is one animal player I most certainly do not look forward to seeing in the Premiership next season.

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Article title: Rebel To Rolemodel?

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