Football star Barton jailed

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Premiership footballer Joey Barton was today jailed for six months for assault and affray.

The Newcastle United midfielder had admitted his part in a street attack in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of December 27 last year.

Judge Henry Globe QC, at Liverpool Crown Court told him it was a "violent and cowardly act."

Newcastle issued a brief statement this afternoon that gave little away as to their response.

The statement said: "Newcastle United notes the sentence passed to Joey Barton at Liverpool Crown Court today.

"The club is considering the verdict and will be making no further comment at this moment."

Barton, 25, of Foxbank Road, Widnes, was caught on CCTV knocking an unidentified man to the ground.

He then straddled the man, and punched him four or five times as his cousin threw food at the victim before Barton punched him up to 15 times more.

Minutes later, the player attacked a 16-year-old, punching him and leaving him with broken teeth.

It followed a series of verbal confrontations inside a McDonald's restaurant after a night out during which he had consumed 10 pints of lager and five bottles of lager.

Barton's cousin, Nadine Wilson, 27, of Childwall, Liverpool, and his brother Andrew Barton, 20, also of Foxbank Road, Widnes, also pleaded guilty to their part in the assaults.

The incident took place as the player was awaiting trial for two other offences: alleged criminal damage of a taxi and the alleged assault of former Manchester City teammate Ousmane Dabo, 31, who now plays for Lazio.

The hearing heard that the footballer was remorseful about the incident and had admitted to an alcohol problem.

Judge Globe told him: "Without doubt, the most serious of the three offenders is you.

"You were restrained by others but ignored them and acted in an extremely violent and aggressive manner.

"It also happened at a time when you were on bail for two other matters. If ever there was a time when you should be on your best behaviour, it was then.

"You have a high profile as a footballer and you know that draws attention to you. Yet you drank to excess and behaved in an aggressive, disgraceful manner."

The judge jailed Barton for six months for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and four months, concurrently, for affray.

He was ordered to pay £2,500 to Jordan Spencer, the youth whose teeth were broken.

As he was taken down, Barton kissed Wilson on the cheek and shook his brother's hand.

He then stopped to hand over pieces of jewellery to a man in the public gallery.

The sentence leaves Newcastle in a difficult position as they attempt to find a way forward.

Whatever the moral issues of retaining the services of a man with a criminal record for a violent offence, there are financial implications to consider.

Barton cost the Magpies £5.8million in June last year when then manager Sam Allardyce thought they had got a bargain as his time at Manchester City drew to a close following an alleged assault on team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

He was handed a five-year contract and the chance to relaunch his career on Tyneside.

A fractured metatarsal and a lack of form on his return to fitness meant Allardyce never really reaped the rewards of his investment, and it was only after Kevin Keegan's arrival at St James' Park that he returned to anywhere near his best.

However, today's development means Barton's value in cash terms has plummeted and even if Newcastle did decide to offload him, potential takers would be understandably wary of the baggage he brings with him.

The Magpies will also be acutely aware there could be a reaction too within the dressing room, but perhaps more importantly, with potential transfer targets this summer.

The fans, too, have grown weary of seeing their club's name dragged through the mud, and although they forgave Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer for their infamous on-field bust-up, Barton might have to win them over all over again if he remains at Newcastle.

Keegan, of course, knows Barton well from his time at Manchester City, and only a few weeks ago praised him for the way he had coped with the impending court proceedings.

He said: "I think Joey can be really pleased with his performances and the way he has handled a tough situation.

"Only those close to him know how tough it has been. It's of his own making, of course, but what he has done here is win over the fans.

"He has certainly won over a lot of his team-mates, who didn't know quite what he was like before.

"I think he has handled it as well as you could expect, and his performances have been outstanding when you consider the things at the back of his mind.

"I think he will be proud of himself in that respect."

Barton started 12 of the club's final 14 games of the season and only missed out on the other two at Liverpool and Everton because the terms of his bail conditions prevented him from returning to the city centre where his offence took place.

But whether or not he has pulled on the black and white shirt for the final time remains to be seen.