Sir Alex Ferguson, lawyers, Twitter and Joey Barton. It is a combination that sounds like tabloid heaven, but in fact it's merely the latest plot twist in the on-going soap opera that is Newcastle United.
The Manchester United manager may well be a self-confessed technophobe but that still did not prevent Newcastle's Alan Pardew from contacting him for advice on how to address the well-publicised problems he has encountering courtesy of the social networking site.
"He laughed, actually," Pardew revealed of his lengthy conversation with the Scot. "I had no sympathy from him whatsoever." The description may be somewhat tongue in cheek, but Pardew insisted the discussion as to how best he could rein-in the use of Twitter among his players was one with a kindred spirit.
After somewhat surprisingly revealing that Barton – transfer-listed and told he can leave on a free after a dressing-room row with the manager after a friendly at Leeds – could still have a future on Tyneside, Pardew outlined the measures he has taken to ensure there is no repeat of the cyber attack the club have come under from the midfielder, and his Newcastle team-mate Jose Enrique in the past 12 days.
"If you're criticising the owner, the masseur, a player – anyone at the club in fact – it's in breach of contract," he insisted, after conceding it had been a "difficult week". Pardew added: "We've notified the players – they probably see it as another sort of dictatorial moment from us. We've had to issue them legally with a letter to say this isn't right, it's a breach of contract and they have to understand they're going to be fined and disciplined for it."
Pardew, however, adopted a more conciliatory tone over Barton, who has yet to attract any concrete interest despite several inquiries from clubs, many put off by his £60,000-a-week wages: "What happened on Sunday will stay in the dressing room, but I felt Joey wasn't pulling with the team."
Barton remains ostracised from the first-team squad, but has progressed from being forced to train alone to joining the club's development players. While Pardew ruled out any involvement in tomorrow's friendly with Fiorentina, there may still be a way back if he is willing to rebuild a few bridges.