Joey Barton is facing isolation and could even receive an Eric Cantona-length nine-month ban after Football Association sources refused to rule out that possibility yesterday following the charge of violent conduct they delivered to Newcastle United's troubled 25-year-old.
The FA charge relates to Barton's attack on Ousmane Dabo in May last year, though Newcastle reacted immediately and are sure to contest the FA hearing vigorously as Barton was a Manchester City player at the time. Cantona's kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995 brought a three-month suspension from Manchester United, on the FA's recommendation, later upped to nine months worldwide by the FA. Cantona was also fined £10,000.
That the FA did not ridicule that extreme comparison is indicative of how they see Barton. Yet if Newcastle argue their case successfully, Barton's punishment could be comparable to that received by John Hartson for his training ground attack on Eyal Berkovic at West Ham in 1998, when the Welshman was given a three-match ban by the FA and fined £20,000.
But the FA appears to view Barton's assault on Dabo – to which Barton pleaded guilty in Manchester Crown Court on 1 July and for which he is received a four-month suspended sentence – as more serious than Hartson's offence. Officially the FA said yesterday's "charge is based on the certificate of conviction". The FA would also appear to deem Barton's action as worse than the lunging elbow by Ben Thatcher, then also at City, on Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes two years ago. Mendes required oxygen pitchside and spent the night in hospital; Thatcher was given an eight-game ban by the FA with a further 15 games suspended for two years.
Speculation last night centred on Barton facing a double-figure game ban, which would mean him missing Newcastle matches until the beginning of November. The player has until Wednesday week to appeal.
However, the midfielder, who was only released from Strangeways Prison on Monday after 74 days inside for his assault on a teenager in Liverpool last December, may find any penalty tempered as he has already pleaded guilty to the Dabo affair, and received punishment. The fact that the FA have waited over 14 months to charge him is another aspect certain to be raised by Newcastle. The FA say they were requested by the police not to proceed with action against Barton over Dabo as it could be prejudicial to the court case – but it was nevertheless Newcastle's instant reaction.
"The club has sought clarification from the Football Association as to why this decision has been reached now, given the incident occurred nearly 15 months ago," said a club statement. "Joey will be requesting a personal hearing in relation to the charge." The FA had part-explained their timing, saying in their official statement: "The incident has been the result of legal proceedings which concluded at Manchester Crown Court on 1 July 2008. The FA has subsequently received all relevant documentation following the conclusion of this case and the charge is based on the certificate of conviction."
Newcastle decided on Tuesday that Barton could stay at St James' Park for the remainder of his five-year contract but the club hierarchy wanted to impose a major salary cut. It appears they have been unable to do so but have denied Barton use of an executive box at the stadium and the occasional services of a club driver.Reuse content