Newcastle United and Joey Barton should have been a match made in heaven right from the off, but three-and-a-half years on they finally seem to have started to click. It's that time of year to reflect on Christmas past. Barton needs little reminding of his whereabouts in 2007, sat in a cell, shortly to be convicted of punching a teenager in the head 20 times, the culmination of a drunken night out that would see him serve 77 days of a six-month sentence for assault. Surely the doors on the last-chance saloon had been locked shut this time?
If that was rock bottom in a lifetime of several apparent nadirs which have been raked over enough not to have to go into further gory detail here, the 28-year-old feels his rollercoaster journey is back in the ascendancy, barring the odd blip, as Morten Gamst Pedersen's stomach will attest.
As he prepares to face his former club Manchester City on Boxing Day, a more settled existence off the pitch has belatedly helped signal one of his most productive spells on it, with the midfielder's impressive form in part the reason why Newcastle occupy a place in the top half of the Premier League, when many expected both them and their troubled talisman to disappear without trace.
"If my life was a plot in EastEnders, you just wouldn't believe it," Barton said. Much the same could be said of the recent history of the club he has been at since a £5.8m move from City in 2007, and where he suggests he would happily spend the rest of his career to quell recent speculation over his future. He added: "When you've had the bad times I've had, times when you think to yourself 'how did I get here?', you enjoy the good times even more.
"I've gone from sitting in a prison cell to doing what I'm doing again. It's been a massive rollercoaster. I went from being at the top of my game to being at the bottom. I get the feeling people think differently of me. Not everyone of course, but people can appreciate the steps I've made in my life to make a difference. It's refreshing someone was prepared to give me an opportunity.
"I'm not out of the woods yet. I've been in enough bad times to enjoy the good times and hopefully they'll carry on here."