Pardew gives backing to Barton as tweets turn sour following altercation
Newcastle 0 Arsenal 0
There was a rude awakening for Joey Barton yesterday.
"5.26am, was awoken by a banging sound, burglar attempting to break in to neighbours house," he reported on Twitter. "Needless to say he was disturbed and apprehended. He was so subtle he attempted to put a massive log through the window in broad daylight. What with the burglar and Arsenal game, its been an incident packed 24hrs."
It was indeed for the Newcastle midfielder -- all played out on the pantomime stage of St James' or tweeted to his army of 359,299 followers.
There was one question left hanging in the air, though, in the wake of Barton's appearance as villain-cum-hero-cum-victim on Premier League opening night: where to now for the trodden-upon, shirt-grabbing, slap-struck, Dalai Lama-quoting Twitter laureate of English football? The answer is the Stadium of Light next Saturday for the tea-and-cucumber-sandwich affair of a Wear-Tyne derby. No danger of any short fuse stuff there, then.
We shall see. In the meantime, Alan Pardew is standing resolutely behind his troubled/chilled black and white No 7.
"I asked Joey for assurances about what he was going to do and how he was going to play for us and he answered that," the Newcastle manager said in the aftermath of a bore draw that was enlivened only by the slapstick confrontation between Barton and Gervinho 15 minutes from time.
"The most important thing for Joey is answering on the football pitch and he did that today. He sent the right message, and I think that's important.
"There's been a lot said and written about Joey and I'm sure a lot of it he doesn't like, but I told him the most important thing is to go out and do what he does best -- play football -- and that's what he did."
That, and other things. If it was a smart move on Pardew's part to put Barton in his starting XI, getting the Toon Army on-side after a summer of unrest, it was also a risky one.
The short fuse that blew in the wake of the pre-season friendly at Leeds, prompting Barton to tweet his criticism of the Newcastle board and find himself on the transfer list, was evident again just before the hour mark.
The sometime England midfielder was felled by a robust challenge from Alex Song and subsequently stamped on by the Cameroonian anchor man. The finger-wagging Barton had to be restrained and the smart move on Pardew's part would have been to withdraw him from the heat of the action.
After that, the St James' rebel with a free transfer clause -- and with something approaching a Travis Bickle mohican -- was an explosion waiting to happen. The spark came in the 75th minute as Gervinho crashed to the ground in the Newcastle penalty area after what replays showed to have been a genuine trip by Cheik Tiote.
Barton picked up the debutant Gunner by the scruff of the shirt and confronted him -- possibly not quoting the words of the Dalai Lama that he tweeted about the virtue of tolerance. Gervinho responded with a slap and Barton hit the deck as if he had caught a hammer blow from Manu Tuilagi.
That Peter Walton showed Gervinho a red card and Barton only yellow left Arsene Wenger in temporary danger of parting company with his sangfroid. The wounded Gunner Jack Wilshere accused the Newcastle player on Twitter of being guilty of "a form of assault".
For his part, Barton tweeted: "Maybe I shouldn't have got involved but diving and trying to win a penalty is sh*t. Imagine if I had stamped on Song, all the numptys would be out calling for a public execution."
All of which diverted attention from the disgruntled Gooners perched up in the gods of the Leazes End calling not quite for Wenger's head but for him to put his hands into his pockets.
"Spend some f***ing money!" they implored, venting their frustration not just at another night of toothless football from Arsenal, but at the prospect of their beloved Gunners firing more blanks with clashes against Udinese (home and away), Liverpool and Manchester United to come before the month is out.
"I understand the criticism and I accept every criticism, but I try to do the best for my club," Wenger responded.
"We are not scared to spend money if we find the right player but just spending the money is not the target we want. We want to find the right players and if we find the right ones it can be for £2m or £20m."
In the meantime -- with Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri poised to depart, Wilshere injured, Gervinho and Song facing the prospect of suspensions and with Udinese due at a restless Emirates tomorrow night -- it is back to the drawing board for Le Professor after just the first day of term. (© Independent News Service)