Joey Barton suspended by Rangers for three weeks after training ground bust-up
Rangers have suspended Joey Barton for three weeks in the wake of a training-ground row.
After being banished for most of last week, Barton reported at Ibrox this morning for a meeting with manager Mark Warburton and board members. And his future at the club remains in serious doubt.
A club statement read: "Joey Barton has today been suspended by the club and will not return to Ibrox or Auchenhowie for a period of three weeks.
"The manager, Mark Warburton, and club believe that time and space is required for both the club and the player to assess all that has happened.
"Neither party will make any further statement or comment on this issue."
The player himself sounded less than certain about his Rangers future after he emerged from the talks.
After being asked if he was still a Rangers player, Barton told Sky Sports News HQ: "I think so."
The 34-year-old confirmed last week that he was told to stay away from the club for several days in order to "re-evaluate the way I'm thinking" following a heated argument involving team-mate Andy Halliday in the wake of Rangers' 5-1 defeat to Celtic.
Barton was absent as Rangers continued their indifferent start to the season with a goalless Ibrox draw against Ross County on Saturday.
Manager Mark Warburton refused to discuss the former Newcastle and Manchester City player's situation after the game, describing it as an "internal matter".
But the midfielder had already lifted the lid on last Tuesday's training-ground dispute during a live radio interview on talkSPORT on Friday.
Barton declared himself "as committed to Glasgow Rangers as the day I signed", but also implied criticism of the way Warburton had handled the situation and cast doubt on his desire to change his ways.
He said on Friday: "We're asked for an opinion and I'm someone who gives an opinion. Two passionate Rangers players have then shared opinions on how we get better as a team and what's going wrong for us. It's nothing more and nothing less than that.
"Obviously sometimes the way I communicate can be a bit blunt and a bit direct and it ruffles people's feathers, which I know I have to work at, but I don't apologise for trying to win. I care deeply about playing football."
Barton, who signed a two-year contract in the summer, added: "The way it's been handled is strange. When you look at my history and you're told to stay away from the club, it does look like something more has happened, and that's why I've decided to get on the radio and speak, because it's wrong."
Barton will miss Tuesday's Betfred Cup quarter-final against Queen of the South as well as Ladbrokes Premiership games against Aberdeen and Partick Thistle during his suspension.
At his pre-match press conference, Warburton was again asked about the situation but refused to be drawn into a discussion.
"It's not for me to make any further comment other than what has been released by the club this morning," he said.
"That's all I'm going to say. I'm sure you can understand that from my position and the position of the club. The statement has gone out and no further comment will be made from the club."
He also declined to confirm whether Barton had been placed on paid leave, adding: "You can imagine that such details never come out and are never mentioned by me.
"Respect the fact we're not going to make any further comment."
But the Englishman did insist he will continue to carry out the type of post-match debriefs which sparked the Barton row - but stressed he will not stand for players overstepping the line with their comments.
He said: "The environment we create for the players and the staff is about giving respectful opinion.
"I always want opinion. I'll never have a problem with a player knocking on my door to talk about a session. Do it in the right manner or else they'll get a flea in their ear.
"It's about being respectful with the way we deal with each other.
"That's the way society is these days, it's changing. So I have no problem with [players expressing opinions] at all. It's how you deliver the message which will always be key to myself and my staff."