Monday 19 March 2018

Bad old Joey strikes again

Dermot Crowe

Newcastle United's Joey Barton is an intriguing figure who divides opinion as he strains on the leash of decent behaviour. In football, there is an unforgiving transparency which exposes character flaws as well as technical deficiencies.

On Wednesday night, Barton punched Blackburn opponent Morten Gamst Pedersen for no good reason and, basically, 'lost it' -- succumbing again to a quick-fire temper.

To reach this point and be, for the most part, relative stable, a 28-year-old professional footballer operating in the higher reaches of the Premier League required a certain level of application and common sense. He did not have the silver spoon upbringing and the aid of a well-structured childhood and family life. But riding the wave of several incidents, some including serious assault, Barton has made it to this point. That is either a mark of his determination to overcome his demons or a reflection of a morally corrupt and exceedingly indulgent culture of English football.

Football has saved him for the most part. While you cringed at the paranoid reaction exhibited against Blackburn, it was quickly diffused by an open and frank mea culpa the next day. The confession was swift and unequivocal. An apology isn't worth much unless there is some kind of lesson learned, and correction of future behaviour, yet it was hard not to sympathise with a man in constant conflict with issues that go well beyond football. The mystified Norwegian who took the brunt of Barton's ire mid-week was the embodiment of cool reserve and contrast to his inflamed tormentor. His attempts to calm the situation seemed pointless to an impervious aggressor caught in his latest moment of madness.

How do you learn to deal with an inherent anger reflex when it is only a matter of time when the limits of your restraint are tested again? It might have been more understandable if Barton had been on the end of a wild challenge, or excessive verbal taunting, but there was no evidence of this being the case. The other player brushed off him as they passed one another and he reacted.

The latest flash has cost him the next three matches, enough time to ponder his latest breach of the peace. Barton was born in 1982, which was blessed with a glorious World Cup tournament in Spain.

He should find a highlights package in his time off and remind himself of why he is playing football in the first place.

Sunday Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport