Watching football fans watching the football
Joey Barton is to leave Newcastle United, and Josh Robbins ain't too surprised...
This week’s episode of the Newcastle United soap opera has seen another of their best players pushed out of the club.
After taking to Twitter to air his grievances, Joey Barton has had the embarrassing “£0” price tag put on his head by the already unpopular owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias.
The midfielder was in the form of his life last season, playing a key role in steering Newcastle to a mid-table league position and ending the campaign by being named Fans’ Player of the Year.
With 12 months left on his contract, renewal negotiations had repeatedly stalled. Having seen his most talented team-mates sold or linked with other clubs, Barton felt the need on Sunday to tell his Twitter followers how he felt, referring to the club's previous decision to fine Jose Enrique for a tweet accusing the club of lacking ambition.
“If only we could tell the fans exactly how it is, without them above fining us lots of money. There will be a time and a place.
"It wouldn't effect team morale and cause unrest within the dressing room, am certain Jose's comments would be the tip of the iceberg...
"And again it would be left to those magnificent fans to pick up the remnants of their once great football club. #hadenoughofcertainpeople"
The next day, he was told his St James’ Park career was over. But surely his comments are nothing less than you would expect from a man who shows his passion for the club even as he divides opinion amongst football fans?
Barton arrives for solo training on Tuesday
It's clear that he wants to play for Newcastle and a few extra quid would see him influencing many a game in the black-and-white stripes again next season. But this is Newcastle, where they wrote the book on how not to run a football club.
As the midfielder tweeted that he would make a 4pm announcement, the club released a statement saying “Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been placed on the transfer list today. The player has been advised he can leave on a free transfer.”
Barton responded by tweeting: “Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata.
“I am on a free but the honour of wearing those B+W stripes, surpasses that.
“One day the board might realise, what the shirt signifies. HONOUR and PRIDE. Thanks for your continued support……… #toonarmy.”
Once the dust settles, Joey Barton will come out of this stronger than ever. He was clearly committed to the Newcastle cause and his good attitude and great performances have made him a cult hero, with this week’s events doing nothing to tarnish that.
Although he will forever be known as football’s bad boy, his response to the club’s decision suggests he has turned over a new leaf. While there are still signs of the old Barton, such as him punching Morten Gamst Pedersen during a game at Ewood Park last season, he has been making more headlines for his football.
After his stunning second-half performance in the four-goal comeback at home to Arsenal last season – during which his commitment to the cause got Abou Diaby red-carded, saw him score two goals and deliver a teasing free-kick that led to Cheik Tiote’s equaliser – many of the top clubs have been monitoring Barton as they plan to take him to the level he deserves to be at.
And now he should join a team challenging for Europe, who will no longer have to argue over a transfer fee. The big question is where will he go. He has been linked with Everton and Aston Villa, as well as Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United.
He would be a good signing for the champions as they look to replace Paul Scholes; he has good vision, passing and commitment similar to the United legend. However, he is sure to clash with Ferguson and Rooney, while he may well struggle to be accepted by the fans.
Aston Villa would be a move sideways for him and joining Tottenham would surely limit his first-team chances as he competes with Sandro, Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon and more for a place.
So that leaves two. Everton are his boyhood team and he played in their academy before moving to Eastlands so it would see his career quite fittingly go full-circle. The Toffees should also be able to afford him now there’s no transfer fee – but it's doubtful that their ambitions would match his, and the consequences of that are all too clear.
On the other hand, a move to the Emirates would see him compete for trophies and fill the hole that has caused Arsene Wenger’s ship to sink season after season. His tough tackling would shore up the midfield, his passing would fit in with the Arsenal ethos and as a free signing even the spendthrift Wenger can hardly complain.
Joey and Jack: potential team-mates
Meanwhile, he will be leaving a club full of problems. Firstly, for a self-made millionaire, Ashley’s decision to let one of his prized assets go for nothing is bad business. While Barton wouldn't fetch a huge fee because he only has a year left on his contract, there was still money to be made by selling him, which worryingly suggests the Cockney’s ego is behind these destructive decisions.
On top of that, Barton’s commitment is hard to replace, but a player will be needed to fill the chasm.
What’s more worrying is the obvious lack of control at St James’ Park. The players seem to disregard the constant warnings to be careful on Twitter. Besides Enrique's critique of the transfer policy, Nile Ranger has attacked the club for not playing him in a pre-season game and now Barton’s numerous, highly public comments signal that players are ruling the roost.
And with all this turmoil before the season has already kicked off, it could be catastrophic come May.
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