There was a rude awakening for Joey Barton yesterday. “5.26am, was awoken by a banging sound, burglar attempting to break in to neighbours house,” the tweeting Magpies' midfielder reported. “Needless to say he was disturbed and apprehended. What with the burglar and Arsenal game, its been an incident packed 24hrs.”
It was indeed – all played out on the pantomime stage of St James’ or relayed to Barton’s 359,299-strong army of Twitter followers. He might be sporting a Mohican bordering on the Travis Bickle side but it seems like the combustible Newcastle player is in danger of turning into the Jim Carrey character in The Truman Show.
After tweeting away furiously in the aftermath of his pantomimic appearance as the villain-cum-hero-cum-victim on Premier League opening night - and being at it again all day yesterday - Joey was back in the public bubble last night, interrupting a round of golf to answer questions on the 606 phone-in on BBC Radio Five Live.
“I said what I said about Gervinho prior to seeing numerous replays afterwards,” he said of the slap-stick Gunner who had made him the fall guy. “I have to take back blatantly calling him a cheat. I thought he’d actually fully dived. I’ve seen that there’s minimal contact, but from my point of view he’s still looking to get a penalty.
“I shouldn’t have got involved. I shouldn’t have gone over and lifted Gervinho by the shirt. I should have let the referee handle it. And I shouldn’t have gone down. But that doesn’t make it okay for him to slap me just because it’s me.”
As to the question of where the trodden-upon, shirt-grabbing, slap-struck, Dalai Lama-quoting Twitter laureate of English football goes from here, the answer is Sunderland on Saturday for the tea and cucumber sandwich affair of a Wear-Tyne derby. No danger of any short fuse stuff there, then.
We shall see. In the meantime, Alan Pardew is standing resolutely behind his troubled/chilled ubiquitous black and white number seven. If it was a smart move on the part of the Newcastle manager to put Barton in his starting XI against Arsenal, getting the Toon Army on-side after a summer of unrest, it was also a risky one.
The short fuse that blew in the wake of the pre-season friendly at Leeds, prompting Barton to tweet his criticism of the Newcastle board and find himself on the transfer list, was evident again just before the hour mark. The sometime England midfielder was felled by a robust challenge from Alex Song and subsequently stamped on by the Cameroonian anchor man. The finger-wagging Barton had to be restrained and the smart move on Pardew’s part at that stage would have been to diplomatically withdraw him from the heat of the action.
After that, the St James’ rebel with a free transfer clause was an explosion waiting to happen. The spark came in the 75th minute when Gervinho crashed to the ground in the Newcastle penalty area after what replays subsequently showed to have been a genuine trip by Cheik Tiote.
Barton picked up the debutant Gunner by the scruff of the shirt and confronted him. Gervinho responded with a slap and Barton hit the deck as if he had caught a hammer blow from Manu Tuilagi. “I did go down easy,” he confessed on 606. “I’ve been hit harder my people at school.
That Peter Walton showed Gervinho a red card and Barton only yellow left Arsene Wenger in temporary danger of parting company with his sang froid. “Mr Wenger’s seen the incident with me and Gervinho 60 yards away,” Barton said yesterday, “but he’s failed to see what Alex Song does about five yards in front of him, which is normal protocol for Mr Wenger.”
It was not the best of days for Mr Wenger. “Spend some fucking money!” the disgruntled Gooners perched up in the gods of the Leazes End implored, venting their frustration not just at another night of sexy football Arsenal-style (all foreplay, no penetration) but at the prospect of their beloved Gunners firing more blanks, with dates against Udinese (home and away), Liverpool and Manchester United to come before the month is out.
“I understand the criticism and I accept every criticism, but I try to do the best for my club,” Mr Wenger responded. “We are not scared to spend money if we find the right player but just spending the money is not the target we want. We want to find the right players and if we find the right ones it can be for £2m or £20m.”
In the meantime - with Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri poised to depart, with Jack Wilkshire still on the injured list, with Gervinho and Song facing suspensions, and with Udinese due at a restless Emirates tomorrow night – it is back to the drawing board for the selectively-sighted Professor after only day one of the new term.Reuse content