Barton spared jail over training ground attack

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The Independent Online

Premiership footballer Joey Barton was spared jail today for attacking a team-mate in a training ground row.

Barton, 25, punched former Manchester City colleague Ousmane Dabo up to five times, leaving him unconscious and covered in blood on the ground.

The Newcastle United midfielder had claimed he acted in self-defence but changed his plea to guilty yesterday ahead of a scheduled trial at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court.

Today he was given a four-month suspended sentence.

Frenchman Dabo, 31, was knocked unconscious in an "explosive combination of football and violence", the court heard.

The pair clashed after a simmering row during a training session on 1 May last year. Eyewitnesses recalled Barton getting on top of the player and repeatedly hitting him.

Dabo was treated in hospital for the effects of head trauma, an inflamed eye and bruised eyelids.

He also suffered from headaches for three weeks and missed several matches.

One player, Georgios Samaras, said he had never seen such a violent incident on a football pitch in all his career. Samaras stated he would "never forget it".

Barton had strenuously denied the assault but changed his plea to guilty after learning he was likely to receive a suspended sentence.

He was suspended by City and sold to Newcastle for £5.8 million last summer.

Since bursting on to the Premiership football scene in April 2003, Barton has been making headlines both on and off the pitch.

He was jailed for six months on 20 May for assault and affray after a fight at a McDonald's in Liverpool city centre on 27 December last year.

Again he attacked and punched his victim who was on the ground.

Ten days later he was back at the city's Magistrates' Court, where he was acquitted of criminal damage to a taxi. His cousin, Joshua Wilson, 19, admitted doing the damage.

Barton's four-month sentence was suspended for two years.

Judge Mushtaq Khokhar told him: "As a professional footballer you are someone who is talented and greatly idolised by young and old alike whether you are playing at Manchester City and now at Newcastle United.

"You are constantly in the public eye. You have a high profile, there would be instances of provocations ... being an idol brings with it responsibilities which you have to carry with you all the time.

"You want to be setting an example, particularly to those who idolise you, particularly youngsters who look up to you."