The Premier League started with a bang on Saturday with the incident between Joey Barton and Gervinhio, in the Newcastle-Arsenal match. Barton, having already been stamped on by Arsenal’s Alex Song earlier in the game, reacted angrily to an alleged ‘dive’ to win a penalty. He pulled him up by the scruff of his neck, leading to a brawl, in which Gervinho appeared to slap Barton, who subsequently fell to the floor in agony. As a result, Gervinho was sent off and Barton left with only a yellow card to his name, but the entire country of England against him!
Now Barton has previous for disturbances like this, both on and off the football pitch, and just as his reputation was starting to clear, due to the recent controversy surrounding his future at Newcastle and how he’s represented himself on Twitter, he messes it all up again for himself. Some of his past incidents include: stubbing a cigar out in the eye of a youth team player in 2004, showing his backside to Everton fans in 2006, assaulting a team-mate in his final days at Manchester City in 2007 and being arrested for assault in 2008, which led to him being jailed for 6 months-completing just 2 of those months.
On his day he can be a great player, spraying balls all over the pitch with his pretty good right foot. He’s even played for England! Yet, he remains the most hated player in the country, purely due to this inexcusable behaviour in both society and football. Newspapers used him as an example of ‘broken Britain’, the ‘idol’ that chavs up and down the country admired. Then, slowly but surely, he built up his reputation with a string of strong performances last season, with rumours of an England re-call in the works (this was eventually denied by Capello last week as he would be ‘too much of a risk’, understandable now).
Then a week beore the new season, Barton is placed on the transfer list at Newcastle, and immediately begins to use Twitter to vent his frustration at the club, criticising the owners for going against their word regarding his new contract. He gained support from Newcastle fans, already outraged at the club’s ownership. Also, to the neutrals, his tweets seemed to be that of an intelligent chap, rather than the vicious, thug that many had portrayed him to be. He began quoting various philosophers, rather than moaning about his predicament, and at the same time his following was growing.
However, to the surprise of many, Joey Barton started Newcastle’s first match of the season on Saturday, having persuaded manager Alan Pardew that he was in the right frame of mind to play. How wrong was he! To be completely honest, Barton had a very good game, until the stamping incident between himself and Song, it was missed completely by the referee and had Barton angry, perhaps it was this incident that completely unsettled him and forced him to unleash his frustrations out on Gervinho.
What happens next in Barton’s career is uncertain. At the age of 28, he is undeniably in his peak, and could still give a lot to the right club, something which was picked up on by the press with rumours of Barton going to Man United, Arsenal (not anymore you’d think!), Spurs and even Everton! He is avaliable on a free too, with perhaps the only unattractive feature being his wages, and this aggressive trait which he still seems to carry. For Barton, he’s back to being Public Enemy No.1, in my opinion, though, I think it’s just the role he relishes.