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Flying the chequered flag

By Lee Ryder on Aug 27, 11 12:45 AM


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.

10 Comments

bobby martins said:

Lee, I among many fans wanted barton to stay and loved him for the emotional connection cos of his down to earth and genuine love for the club to do well when he stepped on the pitch..But despite his problems wit the board i felt he owed us all atleast one more year after just one quality season and all tat baggage. Marking his words on twitter Post Leeds friendly tat he cared about winning and didn't want to be inolved in another relegation season with NUFC well guess tats wat he signed for when he joined QPR on 80000/week yr contract...money talks tats why he will b forgotten and he knows it deep down

Julian said:

A great piece of writing, thoughtful, balanced and insightful.

Monty said:

Great article Lee. In a world where everything is polished three times before it is commuicated in the medias, and stock answers is the name of the game, this article was a breath of fresh air. Much appreciated.

Michael A said:

For me , I loved Barton , he was never going to win against Ashley and Co. I want players who go out to play with pride and honour wearing Newcastle Shirt. I will continue my own stand against Ashley and continue going to all away games. I was a season ticket holder back in 1980 till 3 years ago. I will like you continue to support Newcastle to the day I die. Barton was a character , for me he will be missed. I will still go to all away games because I bleed Black & White. That was a really good article Lee.

b jobson said:

The not so funny thing is, Joey did owe us something but Pardew & the OWNER owe us more.Cant see us getting anyone except West Hams COLE....and he is not better than what we have,worse perhaps. Mark my words & I pray that am wrong. BJ

Geogaddi said:

OK, ok... who wrote this and what have you done with Lee Ryder?!? Seriously - an excellent piece. (Faints on the spot)

Gondo said:

Bloody hell, where did that come from?!

That's the best article I've read from a Chronicle journo in years now.

For far too long now I've felt that the Chronicle has felt like a mouthpiece for the NUFC press department rather than reflecting the point of view of the fans.

I know you guys have to report what the club says but it always feels like you don't treat it with the degree of scepticism that it deserves.

This is a good first step Lee. I especially like this part:

"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."

Balanced but reflecting fans' views and frustrations as well. More of this kind of thing!

Mal said:

Life goes on. It's hardly the end of the world. He will be missed on the pitch and Pardew needs to replace him before the window shuts - but somehow I doubt that he will, which will be the real tragedy.
I'm not surprised Lee that you're sorry he's going as he was always 'news' as far as you were concerned and I guess made your job that much easier.
Personally in the long run I think, on balance, we're better without him. He talked a good game but, despite everything he said, he has gone to QPR 'because of their ambitions'. What a load of rubbish. I think it's a move both parties will probably regret in due course. Joey because he'll only be playing in front of 20,000 crowds (as long as they're in the premiership) and QPR because they've given him a 4 year contract on £60k a week - sounds a bit like the contract we gave Alan Smith.

Mr Sweep said:

Although Barton is not really that good a player and definitely not a good human being I'll always fondly remember him for having the guts to stand up to this regime and telling it like it is.If only the dimwits who keep turning up to support Ashley (for it is he who needs you at the ground not the players who couldn't give a monkey's,or play any better whether you're there or not)had the balls to boycott which is the only way this man will sell.All the numpties writing on this board and other NUFC boards who continue to support the dismantling of a fine club should not complain about anything when they are not prepared to make the sacrifice that so many of us have

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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