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Philospohical Barton a changed man

The words Controversial and Outspoken spring to mind when you think of Joey Barton. But even more so is the word ‘frustrating’. On his day Barton is as good as any midfielder in the Premier League, but has let his off-field dramas and his temperament overshadow what a fine player he really is.

Barton made the breakthrough with Manchester City in 2002 after working his way through their youth system. It was one drama after another with him at City, from stubbing out a lit cigar in a youth player’s eye, to assaulting a 15 year-old Everton fan on the Club tour’s of Thailand. Barton underwent anger management with the help of the club and especially Stuart Pearce, manager at the time. It seemed as though Barton was turning a new leaf before the incident which effectively ended his Manchester City career.

Barton was arrested and questioned by Greater Manchester Police after a vicious assault on team-mate Osamune Dabo. Barton was fined £100,000 and suspended by City until the end of the 2006–07 season on the 1st May 2007. Following the incident Dabo pressed ahead with charges against Barton, from which he claimed to have been hit several times resulting in him having to go to hospital for further treatment. On the 1st July 2008 he was sentenced to a four month suspended prison sentence plus 200 hours community service and ordered to pay £3,000 compensation.

All this overshadowing the solitary international cap Barton gained whilst at City when he played for the Three Lions against Spain at Old Trafford in February 2007. Inevitably he moved on that summer, with Newcastle United his next destination, securing his services for a fee in the region of £5.8 million.

Barton stressed his desire to win trophies was his main reason in leaving City, although a reported bust-up with manager Stuart Pearce and the Dabo incident were the more likely reasons for his departure. Barton’s on and off the field antics hardly improved during his time at the Toon, including serving six months in jail for a vicious attack that took place in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of the morning on the 27th December 2007. Barton admitted his wrongdoings and claimed he wanted to achieve ‘total absistence’ after admitting to be an alcoholic. He served 77 days of his prison term before eventually being released on the 28th July 2008.

His on the field antics were hardly any better during his stint at the Toon, where in his first Tyne-wear derby he was heavily criticised by many in the game for his shambolic challenge on Sunderland midfielder Dickson Etuhu. Further conflicts arose with Samir Nasri later in the year before a inexcusable challenge on Xavi Alonso at Anfield towards the end of the 2008/2009 season, meaning Barton would miss Newcastle’s final three fixtures of the campaign, fixtures of paramount importance in their bid to stay in the Barclays Premier League. Newcastle were relegated and Barton was reportedly transfer-listed by caretaker manager at the time and Toon legend Alan Shearer. Barton played just 15 times as Newcastle sealed an immediate return back to the Premier League before starring in the 2010/2011 season as Newcastle consolidated in their first season back after relegation.

Following heavy criticism of the board, in particular owner Mike Ashley, Barton was deemed surplus to requirements and made available on a free transfer officially on the 1st August 2011. It looked as though he could still have a future at Newcastle before another spat with an Arsenal player, this time debutant Gervinho. Barton has since claimed this incident stopped him potentially becoming an Arsenal player in the transfer window just passed.

Neil Warnock took a chance on the Maverick midfielder when no-one else wouldn’t – obtaining him on a free-transfer after offering him a lucrative four-year deal on a reported 80,000 a week, and with a release clause in his contract if Rangers were to be relegated in their first season back in the Premier League since 1996. Barton insisted he never wanted to leave Newcastle but it was in the best interests of himself and the club, whilst saying he was very much looking forward to an exciting new chapter in his career at the West London club.

Barton has already impressed for the R’s scoring in only his second game for the club against Wolves, and already looks to have become a favourite amongst the R’s faithful. Undoubtedly Barton has made mistakes and many of them, but everyone deserves a second chance and he now under Neil Warnock should look to establish himself in the R’s team and prove to be a pivotal player in their attempt to consolidate in the Premier League. If Barton shows the kind of form in his early days at Manchester City and last season at Newcastle, along with the right attitude on and off the pitch, it will be extremely hard for Capello to continue to ignore the talents of the midfielder, who is without doubt at least worthy of a place in the England squad, if not more.

Sean Gallagher

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