He has developed a fondness for Nietzsche, believes British troops should be brought home from Afghanistan, prefers David to Ed Miliband, spent this summer at Wimbledon and Glastonbury and spent yesterday morning training on his own at Darsley Park, Newcastle United's training ground. Welcome to the world of Joey Barton, the most controversial yet intriguing English footballer of the moment.
Having been made available on a free transfer by Newcastle on Monday, amid claims of another dressing-room outburst, Barton found himself banished from the first-team squad yesterday and fined two weeks' wages which he intends to appeal. "Made to train alone today, how predictable," he tweeted. That Newcastle are in such a rush to rid themselves of their best player – they did not win a league game last season in which he was not involved – sums up the difficulties of dealing with such a peculiar character.
Barton likes to quote Virgil, Nietzsche, Orwell, Aristotle and others via his Twitter account, but it is the old Churchill line about riddles, mysteries and enigmas that perhaps best wraps up the 28-year-old from Huyton, Liverpool, "the son of a roofer and the grandson of a roofer."
He will have no trouble in finding another employer, with Tottenham and Aston Villa leading the hunt for the self-proclaimed best English midfielder in the Premier League. Wherever he goes, after Manchester City and Newcastle it will be his third club in nine years – five at City, four in the North-east – and by today's standards that is a healthy length of service. But then he has departed each amid rancour; again with Barton it is a case of mixed messages.
In 2008 Barton served a jail term for assault. It stemmed from the most serious of a string of incidents, including stubbing a cigar into the eye of a team-mate and having an altercation with a teenage fan on a tour of Asia. The CCTV pictures shown at the trial were brutal but during the proceedings there were also suggestions that the player was making efforts to change. Kevin Keegan, who managed him at City, gave a reference – something he said he would not have done for Barton during his time in charge at City. Keegan was convinced that Barton was making real efforts to become a "responsible individual". Barton stopped drinking with the help of the Sporting Chance clinic, an organisation that has helped him with anger management issues too. When the clinic was short of funds a couple of years ago he paid for a new minibus.
On the pitch he remains combustible. Last season he was banned for punching Morten Gamst Pedersen – an incident he apologised profusely for – and there are those at Newcastle who clearly find him too difficult to handle. Relations with Derek Llambias, the club's managing director, have broken down and the post-match eruption following a friendly defeat at Leeds United on Sunday made minds up once and for all at St James' Park.
Yesterday morning Barton turned to George Orwell. "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act," he tweeted. Barton has taken to Twitter like few other footballers; he is approaching 200,000 followers and uses social media to express views on an array of subjects, the expected on sport and racing, but also politics, world affairs, books – he has just finished Naomi Wolf's The End of America – and philosophy.
Newcastle may be relieved to rid themselves of this troublesome dressing-room preacher, but someone will be more than happy to have him, a dynamic midfielder at his peak, whatever the accompanying baggage. "There's safety in the herd," Barton tweeted this summer, "but never enlightenment or individualism."
* "I was a complete bellend at times. No doubt about it. No denial of that......but I've grown and changed considerably as a man"
* "Its a British trait to be embarrassed by sounding too positive, we are not aware of our own self worth as a democratic society. Embrace it"
* "Why are British troops in conflict zones risking their lives, on America's behalf? Supporting a fascist regimes ideologies? Bring them home."
* "You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. #Nietzsche"Reuse content