Never one to blend into the background, Joey Barton has again found himself subject to major media scrutiny over the past fortnight over comments made through social networking site Twitter.
Barton has consistently maintained a role in British football’s media circus since coming on to the scene early in the 2000’s, and generally speaking it has been because of his off-field antics.
His career has at times descended into chaos as a result of his behaviour but until this latest saga there had been major signs of a revival and a reformation of character.
The personal changes being undertaken by Barton seemed to be reaping the rewards both on and off the pitch and last season he was outstanding. He was the heartbeat of the Newcastle side that were promoted back to the Premier League and continued this form upon their return to prominence. While team mates Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll may have taken the majority of the headlines in the North-East for their goal-scoring exploits, Barton went rather uncharacteristically under the radar en route to being rated their most consistent performer over the campaign.
It is this improvement in character and on field performance which makes the current situation all the more bizarre. Of course football club’s in modern society are about more than just performances on match-day but this time around has Barton really done that much wrong?
Personally, I don’t think he has. Sure he has voiced his concerns in recent times but if you don’t want that to occur then why on earth would you have a player like Barton on your books in the first place? It seems odd to me that the Newcastle hierarchy would be so perturbed by Barton’s recent statements on Twitter and a potential character clash with manager Alan Pardew when in the past they have shown faith in him and supported him in the face of criminal charges. Couple this mystery with the fact that he is now a far more mature and clever footballer and you start to see why Barton’s agent Willie McKay is describing Newcastle’s desire to offload his client as “suicidal”.
One must feel that such an opinion is evidence that McKay shares the concerns of his client in disagreeing with the club’s recent decisions to sell on two of their very best players. They aren’t alone in this view either, with Barton’s Newcastle team mate Jose Enrique having also faced scrutiny for airing his frustrations regarding a seeming lack of ambition.
It seems that ‘Bad Boy’ Barton is for the first time in his controversial career on the receiving end of a barrage of sympathy, when he is far more accustomed to dealing with a lack of support. He has repaid the faith shown in him by the board at Newcastle with a high level of performance and has developed a real affinity with the club’s fans and the City of Newcastle. However, it is apparent that the Newcastle board are prepared to lose such a great asset in order to demonstrate authority and a show of solidarity.
Though the Newcastle board have acted strangely on several occasions before, this moral crusade might just take the biscuit. Ask any Newcastle fan who their best four players have been over the past two seasons and the response will be Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and the man in question Joey Barton. The first two of these have already left the club and the latter two appear to be on the verge of doing so.
Some might argue that it is hard to hold on to such players when you’re not at the peak of European football but it really is hard to have any sympathy for the Newcastle board. The reasons being cited for them losing their top performers seem to be focused on a perceived lack of ambition and lack of desire to hold on to the cream of their crop, Barton and Enrique are just the latest subjects of such frailties.
If Newcastle do part company with the likes of Barton and Enrique then they are set to endure a very tough season. As yet signings haver been few and far between and their has been little evidence of the board fulfilling the promises made to spend the entirety of Andy Carroll’s £35,000,000 transfer fee on new signings.
Mike Ashley and his supporting staff are not exactly backing up their reported desire to impress the club’s fans by selling their prized assets, or in the case of Barton simply letting him go for free before the end of his contract. It is therefore easy to see why their top players are beginning to feel the need to go public with their worries, and who could blame them for seeking pastures new?