Why we love (and hate) Joey Barton
Former QPR captain Joey Barton caused havoc in the last match of the season against Manchester City, leading to 12 game ban (Image: AFP)
Joey Barton’s season-long loan move to French Ligue 1 club Olympique de Marseille late last week is the latest development in a career studded with all the hallmarks of a bad-boy celebrity that you just love to hate.
Barton might have found life at the top of the football tree a little hard to deal with at times, but there can be little doubt that the man can play.
The 30-year-old Merseysider has the vision and ball skills that would make him an asset at most Premier League clubs; but it’s his exceptionally poor discipline, on and off the field, that make him a villain in most football fans’ eyes.
The Queen’s Park Rangers midfielder concluded his 2011/2012 season in a manner that he would probably like to forget.
In May, he was banned for an unprecedented 12 games for his red card at Manchester City, obtained for violently attacking three (yes, three) opposing players in the final match of the season.
Like a scene from a Jackie Chan film, Barton elbowed Carlos Tevez, planted a knee into Sergio Aguero from behind, and almost as an afterthought attempted to headbutt current City captain Vincent Kompany. Any one of these offenses are worthy of a red card and lengthy ban, but Sensei Joey Barton is not a man to do things by half.
Whilst we might condemn his rough conduct against Manchester City last season, it undeniably added to the entertainment value of the game. Seeing an angered professional footballer physically felling his opponents one by one is arguably more ‘exciting’ than seeing a goal being scored, in a perverted sense.
What’s more, his antics at Manchester City were only one part of the saga of a man perhaps more suited to a boxing ring than a football pitch.
Joey Barton’s top five moments of madness:
5) December, 2004. Barton is fined six-weeks’ wages for stubbing a cigarette in the eye of young team-mate Jamie Tandy at a Manchester City FC Christmas function.
4) October, 2006. Barton drops his shorts in the direction of the Everton home fans at Goodison Park. Leading up to this event, Barton had been involved in an altercation with a 15 year old Everton fan at his team hotel in Bangkok.
3) July, 2004. During a pre-season friendly against Doncaster, Barton sparks a ten-man brawl following an aggressive tackle on Rovers’ Paul Green.
2) December, 2007. While drinking in Liverpool city during the early hours of the morning, Barton is again at the centre of a spat, this time at a McDonalds restaurant. Barton attacks his victim, punching him in the head while he is lying on the ground and subsequently spends New Year’s behind bars after being refused bail.
1) May, 2007. Barton is involved in an incident with then-team-mate Ousmane Dabo, resulting in Dabo being punched in the head (from behind), losing consciousness, and being struck again repeatedly while on the ground. Dabo suffered a detached retina, and Barton was handed a four-month suspended prison sentence.
Although he is a little wild at times, Barton’s career statistics speak for themselves.
He has made over 200 Premier League appearances for three different clubs and scored more than 20 goals in his ten-year tenure in top-flight football.
On the other side of the coin are his disciplinary statistics. Barton has served 77 days in prison, been subjected to numerous FA sanctions and fines, and has been fined by his own club(s) on countless occasions. He has acquired 68 yellow cards in all competitions, and seven straight-reds.
One could argue that had he not been forced to serve a plethora of match-bans and a prison sentence, his card-tally might be even higher.
It must also be said that Joey Barton has a good side too. He is a member of a number of organisations aimed at helping addicts, troubled youth, the homeless and has participated in a celebrity charity cricket match for a new children’s rehabilitation unit at a Manchester hospital.
He is quick to forgive and forget, and has wished QPR all the best upon his departure from the London-based club in the wake of his 12-match ban.
And while one could never condone or excuse his fits of anger and violence, one could be forgiven for appreciating him.
His physical and verbal attacks launched at his oppositions, outbursts on Twitter, and brain-explosions off the pitch all help make him what he is: a pure-and-simple entertainer. The fascinating combination of his footballing ability and his penchant for bad behaviour compels you to watch him.
Oh Joey, the Premier League will definitely miss you.