Once again, the Sunday newspapers were full of stories slating Joey Barton for his antics against Arsenal on Saturday evening. As usual, all of Barton's past misdemeanors are cited and he gets more than his fair share of criticism over events.
The problem is that, with the media and opposition supporters unwilling to forgive and forget his past, his actions will never be fairly judged. The same journalists and fans that had slammed Newcastle United for offering him a free transfer after the problems this summer had changed their tune by Sunday morning as Barton once again became public enemy number one.
What Barton did was stupid, Gervinho went down very, very easily, but with the referee not giving a penalty there was no need for Barton to get involved. Grabbing a player by the shirt in the box while the ball is in play is absolute stupidity and his play acting after being slapped was disappointing.
Both the dragging of a player off the ground after a dive and the overreacting to facial contact though are both, rightly or wrongly, relatively common in top-level football these days (Arsenal fans might want to remember back to Ashley Cole getting Craig Bellamy sent off at Highbury).
Are they worse than stamping on a player like Song did to Barton earlier in the game? No! Are they worse than reacting and slapping a player in the face? Probably not.
The problem is Barton simply can't win. If roles were reversed and Barton had done the stamp and Song had dragged an NUFC player up and overreacted to being slapped who would have been slated in the press the next day? Barton!
If Barton had gone down easily and been dragged up by an Arsenal player who he slapped, who would have been the villain in the papers the next day? Barton!
If rather than going down easily, Barton stood his ground and hit Gervinho back, I dread to think what would have happened!
Was Barton stupid in his actions? Yes, of course he was.
Was he the worst offender on the day? Not by a long way.
Some of the press coverage has been nothing short of a witch hunt, apparently having a reputation as a troublemaker means that another player stamping on you is in some way less of a heinous offense.