Barton: Rebel with an amazing capacity for trouble
Friday 28 December 2007
A troubled, truculent, violent, outspoken rebel. A one-man war against the establishment. When most football fans think of their least favourite English footballer, there is a good chance that it is Joseph Anthony Barton who appears in their mind's eye.
Throughout his short and relatively unremarkable playing career, Joey Barton, 25, has shown an astonishing capacity to attract trouble and controversy culminating in this week's arrest for an alleged assault in Liverpool. His hair-trigger temper has seen him attack team-mates without warning. His acidic comments have made him one of the game's most eminently quotable players but, for many of his fellow professionals, one of its least liked.
The Liverpudlian who grew up in the same Huyton district in Liverpool as Steven Gerrard has always struggled against a difficult upbringing to try to make the most of his undoubted talent. That family background caught up with him in December 2005 when his half-brother Michael was convicted of the racist murder of a black student, Anthony Walker, five months before. But not before Michael went on the run and was the subject of a public appeal by Barton to give himself up.
For having a relative capable of such an evil act there was sympathy for Barton. For the rest of his long list of misdemeanours the Newcastle midfielder has only had himself to blame. His most serious violent outburst to date was the incident that led to his assault charge for an alleged attack on the French midfielder Ousmane Dabo during a training session with Manchester City in April 2007.
The case is expected in court at the end of the season. Shortly after the attack, Dabo alleged that Barton had attacked him from behind and knocked him out before he could defend himself.
That incident was the breaking point for City who sold him to Newcastle a few months later for 5.8m having put up with more than one episode of Barton bad behaviour. At the club's 2004 Christmas party Barton infamously stubbed a cigar into the eye of the City youth-team player Jamie Tandy.
What followed was a 70,000 fine and a public apology by Barton. The irony of Barton's indiscretions is that he always appears to be genuinely sorry and then gets into trouble soon afterwards. On this occasion Barton broke the leg of a pedestrian when he was driving his car in Liverpool in 2005.
That summer life got even worse for Barton when he got in a fight with the City captain Richard Dunne during the club's pre-season tour to Thailand. The incident took place in the lobby of the Bangkok Radisson hotel when Barton struck a 15-year-old Everton fan. Dunne attempted to intervene and was attacked. Barton was fined eight weeks' wages and sent home by his then manager Stuart Pearce.
Only then did Barton undertake counselling at Tony Adams' Sporting Chance clinic. "It's been spelt out to Joey this is his last chance," Pearce said. But there would be more mistakes dropping his shorts in front of Everton fans in September 2006, for one and more forgiveness for the City midfielder.
His one England call-up was to play Spain in a friendly in February this year soon after he launched into an attack on the "bullshit" autobiographies written by England footballers in the aftermath of their 2006 World Cup failure.
Now at Newcastle he has bought a house in the Jesmond area of the city and had showed signs of settling down at long last. His recent comments that the Newcastle fans were "vicious" have not helped supporters simply do not believe he has done enough for the club yet to merit such outspoken attacks.
So far his most memorable contribution for Newcastle has been a waist-high tackle on Sunderland's Dickson Etuhu. He was booed off in the draw against Derby on Sunday and on the bench against Wigan on Boxing Day. He may yet say that after this latest incident he has learned his lesson but the evidence suggest that in Barton's life, history has a habit of repeating itself.
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