Date: 2nd July 2008 at 1:50pm
Written by:

I know this isn’t strictly to do with Arsenal, or in particular Emmanuel Adebayor, but as a wider football and indeed sociological issue, I feel this needs to be addressed. As most of you are no doubt aware, Jeoy Barton is currently serving a six month prison sentence for an aggrivated assault outside a McDonalds in Liverpool last December. It is speculated that he will be released in time for Newcastle’s pre season training. At this moment in time, Newcastle’s party line is that they will have talks with Barton upon his release. They refuse to confirm that he will be sacked.

Barton is no stranger to violent indiscretion. Withstanding his many questionable challenges on the football pitch, Barton has variously stubbed a cigar out on a team mates eye, become involved in a fracas with a teenage Everton fan whilst on a pre season tour and he was this week handed a four month suspended sentence for assaulting ex Manchester City team mate Ousmane Dabo. Far be it from me to come over all Daily Mail here (for instance, I’d wager time in clink has done bugger all to rehabilitate him. Locking a persistent violent offender away with other violent offenders in a small room for 23 hours a day hardly seems the best way to rectify a volatle temper), but surely for the sake of all that is good and holy Newcastle have to take a positive stance and sack him? Barton is supposed to be an athlete and yet was happily indulging in several pints followed by a late night McDonalds in the middle of the buisest period in the Premiership calendar, also during a time when Newcastle were on a run of poor results. (I myself often indulge in the diet as stated above and I can’t take a flight of stairs without feeling like fainting, God knows how I’d fare with 90 minutes on a football pitch).

But there is a wider issue here at large. Greed from players is slowly morphing football into a real turn off for the average football fan. Personally, I think lamenting player greed can risk tipping over the line into the hypocritical. I’m pretty sure all of us have complained about the money we earn at some point in our lives. While we spew the righteous indignation of the working man as a player demands a weekly salary far in excess of our annual salaries, do you think our holier than thou, hard done by attitude cuts any ice with starving Rwandan children? Most people are, frankly, self absorbed on such matters. That’s what money does to people. All of us are hurling lumps of mosaic marble at our own reinforced, double glazed glass houses. However, I think I am pretty certain that if I was given a six month prison sentence for aggrivated assault, I would be out of my job pretty sharpish. In fact, I know I would as a clean criminal record is an essential pre requisite in my line of work.

I can’t think there are many people reading this article who could honestly say their employers would tolerate such a littany of horribly violent acts such as the ones Barton has committed. A very lenient employer might have given you a second chance after the cigar in the eye at the Christmas party (presumably, said cigar would have been lit to congratulate yourself on how fine a job you did photocopying your buttocks). But breaking a teenager’s jaw would definitely have seen you given the old heave ho. So why should a footballer be treated any differently? Are we about to be told once and for all that the law is less consequential to footballers than the rest of us? If I were to be charged on two counts of assault, it is likely I would be banned from every football ground in the country. Is there a possibility that, should Newcastle continue to employ Barton, that every Premiership ground could refuse him entry to their grounds? I fully comprehend that Barton underwent a rough upbringing and society in general really doesn’t give a panda’s crap about people on council estates, but is telling him he can continue to commit these acts really the way to educate him and prevent him causing further harm to the public?

Continuing to employ him would not only be morally objectionable as well as a huge PR own goal, but it could harm Newcastle’s chances in the transfer market. Putting aside the fact that they’re a perenially shite side with delusions of grandeur and twats for supporters (I like to call them the Tottenham of the North), would you sign for Newcastle knowing that Joey Barton might be changing at the peg next to you? Newcastle have to stand up now and send a clear message that their football club will not condone this kind of behaviour from its players. If they keep Barton, will they have the moral right to eject supporters from the ground who behave aggressively? Unfortunately, I’ve a feeling that the Geordies will keep hold of him, largely becuase they know that sacking him would allow some other chumps to pick him up for free. It’s a real shame, because I think Barton has genuine ability and in interview always seems like a considered and articulate chap. But on this occasion, I think lessons need to be learned.LD