Newcastle issue Barton ultimatum

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The Independent Online

Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton is facing a major decision over his future after the club presented him with two stark options.

It is understood the 25-year-old, who was jailed for six months in May after pleading guilty to charges of assault and affray, has been offered a choice between taking a huge pay cut or the sack.

A Magpies official is believed to have met the player's agent, Willie McKay, at the weekend to deliver the club's verdict after they considered the alternatives open to them.

Reports have suggested Barton could be asked to accept half the £60,000-a-week wages he agreed when he signed a five-year deal at St James' Park last summer.

The other avenue open to him is to leave the Newcastle and look for alternative employment, although just how many managers will be prepared to take a gamble on him, albeit a cut-price one, remains to be seen.

Neither the Magpies nor McKay were commenting on the situation today.

Barton headed for Tyneside last summer in a £5.8million switch from Manchester City, but endured a less-than-successful first campaign in the north-east.

A fractured metatarsal prevented him from making an instant impact, and a lack of form on his return did him few favours with fans not entirely convinced by his acquisition in the first place.

By the time he did finally start to prove his worth, Sam Allardyce, the man who had invested so much faith in him, had gone to be replaced by Barton's former City boss Kevin Keegan.

Keegan sang Barton's praises for the way he handled himself as he awaited the recent court proceedings and is understood to be keen to retain his services.

However, with owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort attempting to rein in the spending of recent years, it appears they will only allow that to happen on their terms.

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