Joey Barton’s story is tragic—a promising and talented footballer who has made bad decisions, decisions that have now brought him to a crossroads in his life.
Where he goes on from here and what he does with his career will depend a lot on how he views the past (whether he perceives himself to be the victim or the victimiser) and perhaps more relevant to football, how the people around him help him move forward.
Make no mistake—Newcastle United, the PFA and the FA each have key roles to play in Barton’s future—and here’s how they can help the player while punishing him for his actions:
FA need to consider Newcastle’s and Barton’s future
Banning Barton from playing football—for 5 games, 15 games, a whole season or a lifetime is not the answer. It won’t help football (although it would help the FA’s image), it won’t help Barton and it won’t help Newcastle.
Keegan has talked about giving Barton a supportive environment and a genuine chance to make good—I believe that while it should be his last chance, he should still get a shot.
In addition, the FA will be grossly negligent of their responsibilities to football in England if they rule on Barton’s case without catering for Newcastle’s current predicament—facing undue punishment for an incident that happened before they bought the player.
Sure, in hindsight it’s easy to say that Allardyce made a mistake (a costly one for Newcastle given Barton’s wages and lack of minutes on the pitch in the first season) but the target of the punishment should be Barton, not Newcastle and it’s the FA’s responsibility to account for this.
The ideal solution would be to punish Barton without punishing Newcastle—and with that in mind I suggest the following:
- Barton must agree to a contract amendment that puts him on 50% salary (50% basic + 50% bonuses) for the next season. This can be renegotiated next summer.
- Barton is also on a one-year probation—if violated he gets a lifetime ban from football, and if he comes through it without any problems then all restrictions mentioned above are removed.
- Failure to comply results in an immediate lifetime ban from English football.
There’s a part of me that likes to think that Barton can reform himself if he’s given the chance. Keegan will give him the space and TLC needed, but the FA have to ensure that Barton doesn’t go scot-free AND that Newcastle are not unnecessary punished for actions not committed when he was on their books (lucky, lucky City).
PFA and Barton
I’d like to see the PFA step in and help Barton with his anger management problems and to sort things out so that in the future he doesn’t harm his own career or hurt anyone else.
Most people at this age refuse to change, and therefore end up destroying their lives. Barton has a slim chance, and a slimmer window of opportunity to avail that chance. We have to do everything possible to give him that chance.
Newcastle and Barton
Barton owes Newcastle a lot for the backing they’ve given him. I know that the reason is financial—they don’t want to lose a player for nothing when they paid 5m+ for him—but in Keegan they have a manager who can motivate and reform players while in the Geordie faithful they have that rare communal support that Barton can rely on as he works on being a more responsible person and footballer.
If Keegan and the Newcastle fans back him, if the PFA give him all the help he needs and if the FA make sure that he’s back to playing football as quickly as possible, there’s every chance that Barton might be saved.
Although in the end it comes down to how Barton behaves, it all starts with the FA and their decision on the matter. Let’s hope they make the right one.