Flying the chequered flag
The first time I ever met Joey Barton he gave the instant impression he wasn't like the average footballer.
He was down to earth.
Shortly after his comeback game from a broken foot at Kingston Park, Barton came out of the tunnel to do an interview and had managed to tread on a huge plaster which was stuck to his foot.
Barton said: "What is it, bloody hell."
Immediately, club officials prepared to get down on their knees to help remove the plaster but Barton wouldn't let them and said: "No I've got it myself."
Other footballers would have been happy to be pampered but it struck me right from the off he was just normal.
Barton's time on Tyneside has, like his football career, been chequered to say the least.
It would be easy to reel off all of the bad points about Barton (how predictable would another life and crimes of Joey Barton be?) and it would be easy to sit here and fall into the trap of buttering him up.
Ultimately what will live with me is this...
Much of Barton's banter is lost on your average journalist because some of them can't relate to the working class nature of it, for me I found it hard to keep a straight face while in the Scouser's company.
Unless you know the moment where you are about to be thrown out of class at school and can't contain your laughter any longer, you won't know what I am talking about!
If there were more like Barton in the game then football would be a more interesting place.
The football world is full of players who talk about "working hard", "the next three points are vital" and "We're doing this for the gaffer/the fans" and any other mundane cliched claptrap you care to mention and then fail to deliver on a Saturday before repeating the same patter.
Generally a lot of footballers (not all) flick a switch when they see a dictaphone or a pen and pad - which isn't a surprise given they are put through courses at the FA telling them to do so, something James Milner has off to a fine art.
Off the record, they will deliver some great chat but once that red button is lit on the tape recorder some change.
Barton does not.
He says it how it is, and one thing is certain, had he been as mundane as some players are he would still be a Newcastle United player now.
The world cries out for different characters but the moment an outspoken person says something they don't like people take the moral highground and condemn it.
In the Twitter age, people want their cake and they want to eat it.
They want to hurl abuse at players like Barton on Twitter then complain if they get a reply they don't like!
For being too honest Barton is now wearing a hooped blue and white shirt and playing at Loftus Road.
His exit from Newcastle should not be a surprise, he was always sailing close to the wind in Toonland.
And his characteristics always meant that one day there would be a straw that would break the camel's back.
For Barton it was an ill-fated day at Elland Road.
Ironically, he'd survived worse scenarios.
The day he was sent off at Liverpool and handed a three match ban being one of them back in 2009.
You could say had Barton not been sent off and banned, Newcastle wouldn't have been relegated.
Out of the three games he missed, Newcastle needed just one more point, one more goal - his influence in matches shows he could have been the man to find that little spark that was sadly lacking.
Yet those are merely bygones now.
He stayed and helped Newcastle get promoted by playing a small part, at Plymouth when he was held aloft by Toon fans he told them to put him down because he didn't deserve it - another honest gesture.
His one full season in the Premier League resulted in him being player of the year but sadly that's as good as it got for Newcastle fans.
That says it all about his ability - but a footballer ultimately lives his life by football logic.
And his exit at Newcastle boils down to the fact that at this moment in time business logic within the four walls of St James' Park is seeded higher than football logic.
When Andy Carroll was flogged, was the beginning of the end for Barton because it was the moment that triggered off the negativity that has drove others out of the revolving door at SJP.
Why should this be a surprise?
It started with James Milner, then Shay Given and Charlie Zog, then Seb Bassong, Habib Beye, Oba Martins and Damien Duff plus others.
Is it all down to just money?
Perhaps to an extent yes, but Barton is a character who wants to win football matches - when he sees injustice he does not act, he reacts.
Hence his grapple with Gervinho, hence his clash with Pedersen, hence all of the other clashes in his life which have landed him in trouble, quite simply, Barton reacts to negative situations.
Such annoyances go unexpressed in the world of Joey.
Meaning he could never survive at St James' Park while budgets are tightened and Newcastle try to convert to a club that is no longer hamstrung by huge wages and financial stress caused by huge transfer fees - that's how it is.
And all of that goes against football logic - which is the logic of Joey Barton.
Football is about winning and basically boils down to goals.
To get goals you need a striker, you need to pay him the going rate to find the net and if he's really good at it, other teams will want to buy him - just like Carroll.
I agree with the latter, buy players, be adventurous and speculate to accumulate - it's the only way.
But whether we like it or not that isn't happening at NUFC at the moment.
It is about recruiting young and unearthing talent and siezing bargains such as Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic.
That's the system and the plan that Alan Pardew seems to be working off.
Fans say journalist aren't asking the right questions but if I had a pound for every time I've heard "Where's the money gone Alan?" this summer I would be able to afford a striker myself.
The problem isn't the questions, the problem is that people don't like the answers.
Geordie punters want to see exciting players through the door with proven, tried and tested career histories.
They want to be entertained but under the current transfer strategy that is going to be difficult.
Recruiting players from France is an economic strategy, not because Graham Carr likes French cusine.
Barton's rants this summer on Twitter are simply a bi-product of how NUFC is today.
But life will go on for the black and whites, Barton will soon, sadly in some ways, be just another ex-Toon player and he knows that better than anybody.
You could read it all over his face when he posed as QPR's next big signing.
I started the blog with the first time that I met Joey Barton and I will end it with the last time I spoke with him.
That moment goes back before Leeds and after pulling into the training ground in Mazda with dented door, Barton was walking off the training field.
After clocking me he shouted (while throwing his arms around as if appealing for penalty): "Hey Lee, where's my trophy for Chronicle player of the season man! It's the only thing I've ever won."
If I'd have known it was the last time I'd speak to him in black and white, I'd have thought of something better to say.
As it stands, the trophy will be on its way to Barton soon.
It's certainly been one crazy emotional rollercoaster Joey lad.
And the place will be a duller one without him.
He will be gone but not forgotten.