There’s a rule of footballing thumb that there’s always a club willing to take on a troubled or troublesome footballer. Neil Warnock adopted Joey Barton from Newcastle at the beginning of the 2011/12 season, the balance of ability weighing stronger in his mind then the baggage that always threatens to exceed expectancy.
Close to a year later and hiss inherited goods the risk appears to have not been worth it. Barton is training with League Two’s Fleetwood Town. But his fall from grace has not been that dramatic. The move which could well lead to a loan deal makes sense for QPR. It would mean the 12 games would be notched up quicker with competitive games closer together and once the dozen “matches” are out of the way Barton would be recalled. But at what price?
That Barton has ability is not in question. It was certainly never in question in his own mind as alluded to in his own comments on his omission from England’s Euro 2012 squad. The inner linings of his cheek were surely wryly indented.
But Barton can pass with accuracy, can score and can work, not afraid to graft, tackle and run. It’s the extra features that cause all the issues.
Barton’s musings on Twitter and now on his new website www.joeybarton.com are widely reported. There seems to be a balance between genuine opinion and an innate drive to rise those who are willing to be risen with great haste.
On the website Barton discusses life at QPR and is complimentary and respectful to Mark Hughes. He also has views on politics, art and music. On celebrities he says he remembers when being famous and to be a role model “you had to have a semblance of talent.” He does. He goes on to say, “Today, however all you have to do is be prepared to make a fool of yourself.” He wrote this after announcing himself as Maximus Decimus Meridius and trying to engage in warfare with a team who were trying to focus on a title rather than a tit for tat.
One thing does come across from the website and his five and a half thousand plus tweets – Joey Barton has a lot to say. On everything. Maybe he should consider focusing on one or two areas and offering expertise rather then trying something the breadth of what he is aiming for.
What drives this insatiable appetite for knowledge is unclear. Insecurity, possibly. A need to prove his intelligence, maybe. Anger? The same anger that has seen his litany of aggressive tirades end with the inevitability of negative publicity and a slide from one time and one cap English international to an oft reviled public figure.
Thirty in September, there is a fear that a slide has commenced. When he resumes playing for QPR, which he most likely will, he will be at the apparent peak of a footballer’s days. To enjoy him at his best would be a pleasure. The rounded player who can knock clever balls into space as well as offer the blood and thunder lapped up by many. A fusion of the best aspects of his games with none of the theatrics.
Legacy can be terrible thing. People rarely talk about how Vinny Jones could place neat passes or how Frank McAvennie could be a clinical finisher. It’s the other “stuff” for which stories are shared and remembered.
If Barton wants to remain in that league of thought then there’s not much can be done. But in football, as in life, its never too late to change how history will view you.