Queen's Park Rangers are close to signing Joey Barton, Newcastle United's tempestuous, Nietzsche-tweeting midfielder, holding off interest from Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Stoke City and Sunderland. Barton will leave Newcastle reluctantly, but will be welcomed in west London enthusiastically, not least by manager Neil Warnock.
Barton met Warnock in London yesterday and subsequently tweeted: "Going for a medical now, still no contract offer from NUFC... think that just about makes my mind up." He also added: "Don't want to leave Newcastle... I've made that clear but my hands are tied."
Spurs would seem to have offered the most high-profile platform for the once-capped Barton, but are only prepared to offer a one-year deal. Barton, 29 next week, would like longer. Sunderland's interest is equally intriguing given Barton's current club, but also an unlikely destination after the praise he has heaped upon Newcastle's fans.
Newcastle paid £5.7m in 2007 when Sam Allardyce was manager. He is still under contract but the club said Barton could leave on a free transfer after a pre-season row with manager, Alan Pardew, and criticism on twitter of the club's decision to allow Kevin Nolan to leave for West Ham.
Warnock would not be drawn on his chances of confirming Barton's signature but said: "It is great that we are even talking to players like that." Warnock, who yesterday sold central defender Kasper Gorkss to Reading, hopes to make two more signings before the weekend. A full-back is high among his priorities with Clint Hill suspended and Bradley Orr suffering a muscle injury in Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat to Rochdale. As well as Barton he has also been chasing two other England internationals, West Ham United's Scott Parker and Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips.
In a further sign of the new possibilities at Loftus Road since Tony Fernandes took over, the club announced they are cutting ticket prices. They are also giving "significant" refunds on season tickets which are only one match old. Rangers' previous co-owner Bernie Ecclestone increased season ticket prices by almost 40 per cent this season. It is understood Ecclestone wanted to double prices but was persuaded not to by Warnock – who feared playing in front of an empty stadium – and Amit Bhattia, the vice-chairman. Bhattia subsequently resigned but has returned under Fernandes
The club's new CEO, Philip Beard, said: "These changes show how serious we are about taking the fans' views on board."
Beard also announced that the club would allow free entry for under-eights in specified areas, if with an adult paying full price. Lowest ticket price will be £25. "I'm delighted," said Warnock, "because I know how difficult it is for a lot of our supporters to make ends meet and still support their beloved Hoops."