Barton 'could still face charge'

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Joey Barton could still face a Football Association charge despite Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor's decision not to lodge an official complaint over an alleged remark made by the Newcastle midfielder during Monday night's match at St James' Park.

Reports this morning alleged that Barton made a racist comment during a confrontation involving the pair following a first-half foul.

However, PA Sport understands that Agbonlahor has told Villa manager Martin O'Neill that he does not want to take the issue to FA disciplinary chiefs.

But despite the England Under-21 star's unwillingness to press the issue, the FA are awaiting observations from the player and Aston Villa before deciding if Barton should be charged.

The club were contacted by the FA this morning and have a week to provide their account of events.

Once they have done so, the FA's Football Regulation Department will decide whether further action is required.

It is understood there is a determination at Soho Square to deal with the issue as quickly as possible, and the FA have clarified that they do not require any formal complaint to be made in order to pursue their enquiries.

Agbonlahor's decision not to complain appeared to have put Barton in the clear, but he now faces an anxious wait to discover the outcome of the FA's investigation.

Whatever happens, it will have no bearing on the suspended six-match ban imposed on the 26-year-old for his training ground attack on former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo, which could only be invoked by another violent act either on or off the pitch.

That would have been the prospect faced by Barton had the FA opted to take him to task for flicking his hand at Agbonlahor's face in the same incident during Monday's game.

However, Steve Bennett, the referee on the night who did not see the incident at the time, decided after viewing video evidence that it did not warrant a red card, and the FA last night confirmed there was no case to be answered.

Barton said after the match: "The ball came across and the referee gave a free-kick, and I was debating with him because I didn't think it was a free-kick.

"I thought it was a foul against me and I had hold of the ball. Their lad came across and barged me in the back.

"Nothing has gone on. People are making a mountain out of a molehill.

"Don't forget, with the referee and their assistants around and all the television cameras, you know you cannot raise your hands these days, and at no stage have I done that."