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Newcastle’s Llambias tries to take the moral highground over Joey Barton. Fails.

Actually I’ve reached my saturation point with Joey Barton. I like him, I like that he’s opinionated, and I like the way he plays the game - but anything that provokes Derek Llambias into making more of a spectacle of himself is a bad thing.

Barton has obviously had his say - many times now - on the way Newcastle is being run, and Llambias publicly responded today to some of the more tasty comments made by the club’s former midfielder.

“In this week of all weeks, we really do not wish to engage in a public war of words with Joey Barton.”

Very good Derek, very dignified - that’s the response of the CEO of a Premier League club. Oh, wait a minute:

“In a week when one of Newcastle United’s most beloved footballers passed away, it is disappointing that once again Joey Barton makes the headlines.

It is also unfortunate that Joey chose to draw such a disparaging comparison between himself and the employees of Sports Direct, who through hard work and dedication are the recipients of the most generous bonus scheme in the UK.

It may not be a lot of money to Joey, but over 2,000 Sports Direct employees earning £20,000 will receive shares worth over £44,000 over the next two years.

Our legal advisors are dealing with the matter now and we would encourage Joey to concentrate on his football at Queens Park Rangers.”

Excellent - that little ‘hearts and minds’ bit about Sportsdirect employees was especially nice.

I’m not so sure about the need for bringing Gary Speed into it though, I can’t say that that comes across as being wholly appropriate.

Here’s an idea. The team are playing brilliantly and they’re currently doing what they can to temper the hate the Newcastle fans feel towards the ownership, so how about you shut up and try and go a week without getting your name in the papers?

Just give it a try Derek.

The Daily Mail continues to rage over QPR’s Joey Barton

If I tell you that the first paragraph of Mail hack Leo Spall’ most recent article sounds something like this:

“After this week, those hooked on Joey Barton’s twittering or in awe of his pronouncements will not find reference to them here.

The oxygen of publicity which feeds his ego and from which he seems to be building a vastly exaggerated reputation for intelligence and clear thinking will not come from this column.”

…then you know pretty much how the rest of it is going to be.

Regulars readers of this site will know that I find his honesty refreshing, and definitely preferable to the ‘buy the product i’m endorsing’ banality that players usually trot out. Look, I get it though, some people will never forgive Barton for the person’s he’s been - and, to be fair, he’s not a saint now.

However, none of that means that he has to be relentlessly beaten with whatever stick is nearest - as Leo Spall is seemingly intent on doing:

“Take his response to Dwight Yorke saying that Newcastle have improved since letting the midfielder go in the summer, for example.

‘If Dwight Yorke continues to use my name in vain, I may well choose to question him as a man and a father’, tweeted Barton, adding a distasteful and derogatory name with a hashtag.

Does that sound like a mature man who can guide football on to a higher plane? Does it sound like a reformed criminal who understands the need to give others a second chance? No, it sounds like Barton still has the boorish traits which have contributed to him earning such a bad name in the past.”

Could that be any more self-righteous? Joey Barton has opinions, and if you don’t like that then ignore him and follow Michael Owen on Twitter instead. Don’t write an article about, essentially, just how much you dislike him.

Oh and the Dwight Yorke comment? Sorry Leo, but he’s probably the most notorious footballing playboy of his generation - don’t let the big smile and accent fool you. Fair game.

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Joey Barton again - this time on English rugby and Ryan Giggs

I absolutely love Joey Barton, the way he plays, and the way in which he’s incapable of not giving an opinion. Honestly the latter is a huge plus in this age of ‘giving 110%’, ‘taking one game at a time’ and being unable to speak in anything but fluent cliche.

Barton was talking to the Professional Players Federation’s National Conference this afternoon and had this to say about England’s rugby players:

“If that was an England football team at a World Cup, there would probably have been public executions when they got home.

‘Football’s a gentleman’s game played by thugs’, I hear quite a lot, and, ‘rugby’s a thug’s game played by gentlemen’.

The minute a footballer steps out of line, I think the media in this country - because of the sums of money they earn and also because of the stigma attached - are really quick to jump on it.”

He’s not wrong either, because picture this; Terry, Rooney, Ashley Cole on a night out mid-World Cup throwing dwarfs around a bar. Yup, I imagine the tabloids would probably melt with indignation.

…And on Ryan Giggs?

“The Giggs issue in any walk of life is not right, the behaviour of the man towards another man, towards his brother. It’s not right.”

Quite so Joey. Obviously there will be plenty of people who are ready and waiting to use the ‘he without sin’ argument against anything he says, but an opinionated footballer is refreshing - as is one that doesn’t just confirm to the brotherhood of thieves mentality when discussing off-field antics.

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Tabloids loving the drama at QPR as Barton gives some opinions on Taraabt

The papers love this kind of story, because it can be embellished into the kind of melodrama that they can spin-out for days and days.

Anyway, over the weekend Joey Barton has been quoted as saying about QPR’s Moroccan playmaker:

“It is not a case of anybody giving him advice, it is whether it is taken on board. At the end of the day, this is the top level of world football and if you’re not prepared to work hard you will come up massively short.

If I was Adel and had Adel’s ability, I would not want to be coming up short having not worked hard enough. I came here and was told he was a genius, but I’m yet to see it. I don’t know whether that is because he doesn’t work hard enough or that he tends to sulk.

I am happy that he is upset really because it shows he does care. [That said], there is a way of doing it. He is not the only one guilty of it and that is what we have to understand here.

There were a few lads not selected whose heads went down and maybe they could apply themselves better. It is one of those things. There is going to be a 14 or 15-man squad that keeps you in the league this year and everyone has to buy into it.

There will be times when players come in and out but their attitude, their reaction, is going to be the most important thing - not getting the bus home with fans and storming off.

Adel knows that and it would have been nice of him to come in and apologise for doing that. He didn’t think he needed to and some of the senior players maybe feel like he should have.”

It’s all fair, and I doubt even Adel Taraabt will be able to mount much of a defence against anything that Barton’s said. Realistically, every football club in the country has someone like Barton, someone who’s not afraid voicing some opinions for what he perceives to be the benefit of the team. If a player walked out on his teammates as Taraabt did, would it not be stranger if nobody said anything?

Still I’m sure none of that will stop Custis, Samuel and Co giving Barton a kicking - even if he is absolutely right.


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Media over-react to QPR’s Barton - as always.

Let’s be a little less hysterical shall we?

The media have typically over-reacted to Joey Barton being a little bit cheeky yesterday. We all saw his gesture to the Wolves fans at the end of yesterday’s game, and he also made some harmless comments about Karl Henry and Mick McCarthy on Twitter:

On Henry:

“I bet you Henry feels like an idiot again today. He should just keep his trap firmly shut. Sunday league player. I wasn’t happy another player tried to cause an injury when the game nearly over. Just because he’s inferior in every way.”

On McCarthy:

“‘Wolves snubbed me’, I read in this morning papers. Ha ha don’t know what Mick’s been smoking.”

Okay, he probably shouldn’t have made either comment, but let’s not get carried away - as The Sunday Telegraph obviously have:

‘Barton implied McCarthy may have been under the influence of illegal drugs when he claimed earlier this week he would have turned down the chance to sign the midfielder before his move to Loftus Road.’

Come on now, no he didn’t - it’s a very commonly used expression that’s been taken overly-literally because Joey Barton used it. While Barton’s reputation would probably be better-served by filtering his immediate thoughts on Twitter, the media isn’t helping by wilfully misinterpreting everything he says.

With regards Karl Henry, that’s now two games in two seasons against Barton where he should’ve have been red-carded. When Newcastle visited Molineux last year, Henry and the rest of the Wolves team were clearly primed to rough-up Barton and the midfielder was hacked to pieces. His tackle yesterday, with the game already lost, was disgraceful and could’ve resulted in serious injury - obviously though, because it was on Joey Barton it’s excusable and barely worth a mention. The referee didn’t even give it as a foul. What do you think happens if Karl Henry makes that tackle on Shaun Wright-Phillips?

I would say that Barton has every right to say what he did about Henry, who is a player that quietly gaining a reputation for being more of a hatchet man than a footballer. Quick question for you - when i say ‘Karl Henry’ what do you think of? Bad tackling.

Joey Barton is no angel, but his contribution on Twitter is genuinely entertaining and fairly harmless - i’ll take that every day over the players who just use the medium as a means of promoting themselves or a product that they’re endorsing.

We’ve got to move past this ‘footballers as role-models’ concept - it’s just not true. That we’d like them to set an example is really irrelevant, they’re athletes and competitors first - and that’s what they’re being paid for.

Joey Barton - Where next?

Newcastle today placed Joey Barton on the transfer list, and told the midfielder that he could leave St James’ Park for free. It’s been coming, the ownership at Newcastle and Barton’s sometimes ‘honest’ approach where never going to be a perfect fit.

So, Manchester City, Newcastle, and now where? Options please…

Arsenal

It would be sensational, and Barton would be the beast in amongst the beauty of Arsene Wenger’s midfield. But in a good way. What are the qualities that Arsenal lack? Physicality, desire, will to win, and rugged competitiveness - Barton has all of those qualities in spades, and has the ball-playing ability not to stand out in amongst the artistry. Should this happen, it’s hard to know how much connection there would be between player and manager - would there be an odder couple in the League that Barton and Wenger? Maybe it’s time Wenger imported the commodity that he fears so much, the tough-tackling that threaten his side’s fragility. It’s hard to see Barton getting intimidates when you’re away at Stoke.

Everton

There are very few players that David Moyes can actively pursue, in fact, such is the crippling lack of funds at Goodison Park that anybody who commands a fee is pretty much out of reach. Moyes is a long-time admirer of Barton, and tried to sign him from Manchester City before baulking at the price tag - whether the fire still burns, or whether there’s room in that midfield for Barton is questionable. Still, another body is always welcome, given how long the queue outside the treatment room always is.

Tottenham

Harry Redknapp loves a deal, and the way Spurs’ Summer has gone thus far he’ll do anything for new faces. You suspect also, that Redknapp and Barton may very well be a match made in heaven - troubled and sometimes unfocused player seeks strong manager with motivational qualities. Again, there’s no obvious place in the first team for the player, but that didn’t stop ‘Arry signing Steven Pienaar did it? The concern has to be though, that without playing every week, you’d be potentially giving Barton a lot of free-time - and you suspect that playing day-in and day-out is what keeps some of his demons locked away. Not a good idea.

Manchester United

Nope, paper talk.

Aston Villa

Not to quite the same extent as at Everton, but the purse strings are definitely tight at Villa Park - more so after the arrival of Charles N’Zogbia. Given the abundance of mediocrity that now ply their trade in and around Alex McLeish’s midfield, it’s hard to come up with too many reasons why this would be a bad idea. Stylian Petrov is a pale imitation of the player Martin O’Neil brought to the club, Jean Makoun is still in that ‘adapting’ period, and Fabien Delph was never anything but a media creation - there are far worse options than Barton, and far more expensive ones. Definitely a good bet this one, it makes sense for player and team - Barton gets a regular start, and Villa get some verve in that listless midfield.

For a few more thoughts in the general Joey Barton direction, try this… Yes, yes, hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

Maturing Joey Barton deserves softened stance

In six days, Joey Barton will have been out of prison for three years.

If in 2008 anyone had suggested that Barton’s career was heading anywhere other than the drain, they wouldn’t have received a lot of support. Between his Manchester City debut in 2002 and his prison sentence, lies a trail of assault charges, ugly confrontations, and dozens of other testaments to the ugly side of his character - all of which is superimposed on an horrendous family situation. As a country and a society, we’re far too ready to give someone a pass for their misdemeanours because of where they come from, but it’s a mark of how derided Barton was during this period that he was afforded no such luxury. He was a thug, he was violent, and he showed no willingness to recognise or rectify anything that he was doing wrong. Needless to say, at the same time his early footballing promise was dwindling, and the enthusiasm and energy that characterised him as a player faded and his progression plateaued.

Just as we possess the tendency to excuse certain transgressions too easily, we can also fail to forgive and move on from initial impressions that are no longer valid.

It’s a hard thing to write, because it will still be an incredibly unpopular thing to say, but it’s time to judge Joey Barton on who he is now rather than who he was pre-prison. He’s no angel, nor will he ever be, but there’s a point at which you have to recognise the positive steps Barton has taken to improve himself. If you get into as much trouble as he did over such a short period of time, then there must be one or several psychological disorders at work. Rational and well-balanced people do not assault teenagers, don’t punch a man half-to-death, and certainly don’t stub lit cigars into teammates eyes. Joey Barton has done all of those things, but the player you see on the pitch at the moment is not the same person. Unfortunately, the ‘Jamie Tandy incident’ marks Barton, and will forever prevent people truly recognising this. On a side note, here’s what Jamie Tandy has been up to since his football career finished.

Here’s the other thing; he’s also become a better player. There was a specific moment when I started to recognise most of what’s written here, and that was during Wolves and Newcastle game at Molineux last season. Rarely will you see a set of players so blatantly sent out to antagonise an opponent as the Wolves players were that day - Barton was hacked to pieces, but he didn’t react. Early decade, Manchester City-era Barton would probably have been sent from the pitch before half-time in that game - but it’s testament to his growing level of maturity that Newcastle remained at a full-complement that day. Because of all the baggage that accompanies him, the playing attributes he has are often overlooked. This is a tough-tackling blue-collar player for sure, but it’s also one with a cultured passing range and the capability to graft between penalty boxes.

Barton will turn 29 in September, and as such is probably in the twilight of his prime. What remains irritating though, is that for however long he sustains his current playing level he will never be talked about in relation to England. He’s an international-calibre player, especially when you consider that Gareth Barry is currently a regular in the national team - yet he’s been permanently black-listed. This is part of the problem, the FA will never want to be seen to reversing whatever informal directive they’ve imposed on Barton, and that just prolongs the negative associations he has and makes it harder to cleanse his image of the stains of Tandy, Dabo and the rest. It grates even more when you see the kind of behaviour that is tolerated in the England set-up, and you can’t help but feel that Barton’s absence is designed to appease a clique of very underwhelming internationals. His presence would invigorate the midfield with something that nobody else is really bringing to the squad, and his current set of rivals offer more of a case for his inclusion by the game.

He deserves a chance, he’s done his time - I’m going to stick to that.

Ashley set to detonate Newcastle midfield with Joey Barton sale

Is Mike Ashley actually just at Newcastle to prevent the club moving forward? More and more, Ashley’s taking the form of an outside agent installed at St James’ Park to undermine any success that the club could potentially have.

This morning the Independent is running a story on the revelation that Joey Barton will not be offered a new contract, and with only a year left on his current deal that really suggests that the club will listen to offers. Unlike the tabloids, the broadsheets actually include quotes and everything in their stories - here’s Barton’s agent Willie McKay:

‘I had a meeting with Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias and club secretary Lee Charnley and they have indicated Joey will not be offered a new contract. Joey will continue to be a Newcastle player next season and then he will leave on a free transfer at the end of his contract. Joey would have loved to have extended his stay at Newcastle, but unfortunately it is not to be.’

Despite the ‘commitment to the club next season’ remark, we’re not sure that Newcastle would willingly allow a player to move for free when they could recoup a fee - the Cockney Mafia doesn’t really work that. Isn’t it also strange that in any negative story that concerns Newcastle, Derek Llambias’ name invariably comes up; the Andy Carroll sale, the lynching of Chris Hughton, the consumption of some of Bolivia’s finest at 50 - the Private Members Club on St James Street…

The glaringly obvious problem with all of this, is Newcastle’s willingness to let one of their best players leave the club so easily. Barton has obviously had his problems off the field throughout his Premier League career, but even the harshest of his critics can’t deny that this season has seen him settle back down into the combative, ball-playing midfielder that he was supposed to be. No jail time, no cigars, no jibes at England players in the press, and playing the best football of his career as a lynchpin of their midfield - and now Newcastle want to get rid of him?

Ashley, Llambias, and the rest of the gargoyles in the St James’ Park boardroom should probably consider this - take Barton, Cheik Tiote, and Jonas Gutierrez out of that team and what are you left with that can keep you away from the Championship?

Be careful….

Joey Barton in ‘not wrong’ shocker

Read the following:

Did you see the game against Germany at the World Cup? If you watch the fourth goal, when Mesut Ozil was up against Barry, it was like the hare and the tortoise.

‘Barry’s got a very good agent,’

‘He’s also discreet and always agrees with the manager. He’s like the guy who sits in the front row and listens to the teacher. I certainly don’t lose any sleep when I play against him.’

All true? Yes. And all comments made by Joey Barton.

‘Luka Modric and Samir Nasri are very good, but in terms of English players Jack Wilshere isn’t bad, Frank Lampard’s on the way down and Steven Gerrard’s been injured a lot.’

Again, is he wrong?

The press obviously get themselves in a right mess whenever anything happens that involves the ‘controversial’ midfielder, but seriously can we move on? When Barton claims that he’s the best English midfielder in the country, he’s of course being about 50% genuine and 50% provocative - but it’s not as far-fetched as people want it to be.

Does anyone who watched the insipid toss in South Africa last year not believe that our midfield would have been a whole lot more competitive had Barton been part of it?

Good feet, good passing range, can strike the ball from distance, and isn’t that shy of a tackle. It sounds infinitely preferable to the Lampard/Gerrard axis of evil.

Joey Barton should be playing for England.

Yeah, we said it.

Thursday afternoon wilderness

Ian Holloway has claimed that he will resign as manager of Blackpool if he is fined for his part in the latest ‘make lots of changes to your first team’ - gate. We like Holloway, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see the FA grow a backbone and call his bluff?

Edgar Davids has now officially left Crystal Palace. Shockingly.

Ah, Joey, you had to let us down didn’t you. Just when we got ahead of ourselves, and started praising his apparent character rehabilitation - Joey Barton decided to smack Morten Gamst Pedersen last night. It’s such a shame, what a player he could be if he had somebody else’s brain.

Paul Gascoigne missed his sentencing hearing this morning as he has voluntarily checked into rehab for his drug/alcohol/everything problems. Given that his story seems to get sadder by the month, and is headed for an inevitable conclusion, a custodial sentence is surely the best way to protect him from himself. Cruel to be kind.