For someone who dubs himself the best midfielder in the land, Joey Barton can hardly be accused of lacking in self-confidence, yet is this a justified assessment of his skills and ability as a player? Purely looking at the boy as a midfielder, it is fair to say he had a good season for Newcastle last term, being a key figure and often influencing games in a positive way. Yet it was hardly a season that was worthy of nominations for accolades, and when comparing to someone like Scott Parker, Barton pales in comparison.
According to the player himself, he is better than Lampard, Gerrard and Barry combined, with the latter a ‘teacher’s pet’ and the former two over rated and ‘past it’. However, Barton seems to have forgotten the fact that he has won very little, and when you compare Lampard’s two premier league trophies and Ballon d’or nominations, Gerrard’s Champions League winners medal and the fact that Barry is now an FA cup winner and part of a city squad that are sure to add to their haul of trophies in the future, Barton’s claim begins to fall apart. Joey Barton is not a proven winner, and has never performed at the very highest level, and if there is any justice in the world, will never get the opportunity to do so.
When players such as Ashley Cole, Ryan Giggs and Rooney get vilified by the media for their off the field antics, whilst not condonable, failing to keep their trousers on is hardly in the same league as Joey Barton’s past misdemeanours, which include stubbing a cigarette out on a team mate’s face, leaving another in hospital following a training ground bust up, being arrested for criminal damage and assault more than once, making Fascist salutes after scoring goals and having spent time in prison.
What kind of role model is this for young players or children? Should a club such as Manchester United – a rumoured potential suitor – sign Joey Barton, they are not only taking a huge gamble on the player’s somewhat questionable character, but are excusing his past conduct both on and off the field.
Barton claims to have found religion and philosophy, and is now apparently a reformed character, with a calmer personality and without an eye for trouble. However, one decent season does not mean this is the case, and whilst the player and his fans – if there are any – may call for him to solely be judged on his on the field actions, in modern day football this is not the case. Players are role models and held to higher standards that they may feel is fair, but when considering the endorsement deals and wages they receive, not to mention the adulation from youngsters trying to emulate them, it is not unreasonable to see why.
As late as November 2010 Barton found himself in trouble after punching Morten Gamst Pederson in the ribs, showing that the reformed character is not as good as the player and PR team around him would have us believe. Alan Pardew has supported Barton’s attempt at reformation, saying the boy is now a ‘different person than two years ago’, and has displayed leadership qualities this season both on and off the field. Yet how long is this sustainable for?
From both a domestic and international viewpoint, is it really wise to take a gamble on a player who could be sent off at any moment for losing his temper and making an audacious challenge or starting a physical fight? Moreover how long Barton manages to stay out of court and possibly prison is anyone’s guess, something which again would impact any club he played for, whether it be his current club of Newcastle or one of the top four, or even England.
How Barton’s career progresses since his discovery or religion and philosophy remains to be seen, yet for someone who has achieved a greater criminal record than trophy list, Barton should be careful before criticising players who have already been there and done it in the game – something he is yet to do, and in reality, is unlikely to do at all.
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