WHATS THE STORY WITH EX MANCHESTER CITY MIDFIELDER JOEY BARTON? HEAD CASE OR SIMPLY MISUNDERSTOOD?
New FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn looks back at Joey Barton's Man City career and wonders whether the controversial midfielder can rediscover his form at Newcastle and banish his demons, once and for all.
When you hear the name Joey Barton, what is the first thing that you think of? Controversy? Bully? Arrogance? Or perhaps you are one of the minorities that considers Barton to be a misunderstood, reformed character. That he has merely been portrayed by the media as a pantomime villain. Either way, Barton's reputation most definitely precedes him.
Hailing from the notorious Huyton district outside Liverpool, Barton spent his youth playing football with his friends before turning out for local non-league teams. He persisted with his dream and his determination paid off when Everton, the team that he supported as a child, signed him to their academy. However his stay at Goodison Park was short-lived and he was released, only for Manchester City to snap him up.
Back in 2002 City was crying out for a passionate, stubborn midfielder who wouldn't shy away from tackling and could control the engine room with grit and flair. The fancy frolics of ageing Benarbia and Berkovic had a limited shelf life and new talent had to be lined up to consolidate then-manager Keegan's Premier League status. For Barton it was a case of right place, right time. He was about to be rocketed from lurking in the shadows to centre stage, making his debut at the Reebok Stadium and scoring his first goal at White Hart Lane.
Not that his new-found Premier League status had affected him.When I met Barton at a pre-season 2003/04 player's dinner he emerged with the rest of the first team in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms- as a pose to the rest who had made the effort in their finest designer smart casual. He was the epitome of ‘chav chic' and looked like a fish out of water all night- the Huyton youth who had struck gold. He was typically blunt in his approach to the situation (‘I didn't know what to expect tonight- no [beep] told me about the dress code') and obviously had a lot to learn about how to behave off the pitch.
I put this down to sheer naivety. He blatantly didn't want to be at the event, but he could have conducted himself in a more professional manner instead of sitting slouched playing with his phone for the majority of the night, instead of mingling and adhering to his job status as Premier League footballer and role model.
The following two seasons, 2003/04 and 2004/05, were full of education and progress for Barton. He began to show true potential and this, coupled with his grit, determination and midfield endeavours only fuelled his popularity with the City faithful.
However, passion and commitment can be misread and reckless tackles do get punished when the man in black brandishes one or two cards. Inevitably in a player is on the receiving end of more than a few yellow cards he becomes labelled as a ‘bad boy', typecast with a reputation for unsavoury behaviour. An example of this was when Barton received his first red card at Spurs in the historic F.A. Cup 4th round. His mouthing off didn't help the situation though.
The controversy didn't stop on the pitch. The off-the-pitch lunacy that happened at City's 2004 Christmas party involving Barton, a lit cigar and academy player Jamie Tandy's eye not only cost Barton a record £120,000 fine but added a further dent to his reputation. Then, along came Thailand...
The specific events of that night will stay between Barton, Dunne, the teenage fan who was allegedly the catalyst in the bedlam that occurred and any other eyewitness who happened to see the moments of madness. But City stood by him (they didn't really have a choice after the departure of Shaun Wright-Phillips) and Barton faced his alcohol-infused aggression demons at Tony Adams' ‘Sporting Chance' clinic.
Barton's best years of football to date came in the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons at City. He grew in stature and dominated City's midfield with commanding tackles, ambitious crosses and accurate through balls. His reputation remained tainted and the yellow cards continued to flow, but the goals were flying in. Thirteen goals in two seasons was an impressive tally from the midfielder.
It was only a matter of time before managers noticed Barton's talent and started sniffing around, particularly after his England debut. City was lurking dangerously close to the relegation zone and Barton's ego had outgrown the club- he wanted out. Not before he unleashed his most horrific attack yet.
Barton's training ground attack on Ousmane Dabo left the Frenchman unconscious and looking like the elephant man, resulting in Barton's arrest. It was the final straw, the very last insult that he could throw at City. Allardyce signed Barton for £5.5 million, ending his time at the club who had stuck by him despite his previous misdemeanours.
Since his move, Barton has been injured for a number of months therefore decided to exercise his mouth as a pose to his legs. He has been slating his time at City to any journalist that will listen, which I find completely disrespectful. How dare he be portrayed as a reformed character that has been dealt a rough hand? He doesn't deserve pity from anybody- Barton needs to grow up fast and start to take responsibility for his actions. The judge in his trial should make an example of him. I used to believe that he was just misunderstood and that it was wrong for his reputation to precede him- now I think he deserves everything that he gets. Only time will tell whether he can rediscover his form and banish his demons for good.