Loan move from QPR would be unfair
18 July ~ Joey Barton has never been one to shy away from the headlines and his potential loan move away from Queens Park Rangers has created a stir. The volatile Barton was handed a 12-match ban and £75,000 fine by the FA after he was found guilty of two counts of violent conduct in QPR's final game against Manchester City last season when clashing with Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. After an internal investigation, QPR decided to fine him a further six weeks wages, strip him of the club captaincy and leave him out of their pre-season tour of Asia.
It is the latest chapter in a long line of scandals that have littered Barton's career and the third time in five seasons that he has been charged for violent conduct by the FA. He was sentenced to a four-month suspended prison sentence and a six-match ban after assaulting Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo in 2007, and was given a retrospective three-match ban for punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest when playing for Newcastle in November 2010.
It is believed QPR are keen to wash their hands of the player but it would cost them a staggering £11 million to terminate his contract as he still has three years remaining on his £70,000-a-week deal. Consequently, manager Mark Hughes is said to be considering a loan move to a Football League side as a more effective solution. If Barton were to stay at QPR, his 12-match ban would not expire until mid-November. If loaned to a Championship side, he would be eligible to play from mid-October due to the higher concentration of League games and early stages of the newly-christened Capital One Cup. QPR would be bending the rules, to say the least.
Newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday have emerged as favourites to strike a deal for the midfielder, although it is believed that Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers are also in pursuit. But why would any team take on a player capable of causing unrest in the dressing room and who is unable to play the first 12 games?
Although details of a potential loan deal have yet to be revealed, it is believed QPR will cover the majority of the player's extortionate wages and could be prepared to let Barton stay on loan until the January transfer window to gain match fitness.
This would allow Barton to assist a Championship side over the busy festive period. A January return would also allow QPR to compensate for the loss of Samba Diakite if Mali advance to the African Cup of Nations in South Africa early next year.
Alternatively, if QPR were keen to reinstate Barton to the first-team as soon as his suspension had elapsed, a fringe member of QPR's first-team squad could also make a loan move to the proposed club. Established Championship strikers such as Jay Boothroyd, DJ Campbell and Heidar Helguson appear to have fallen out of favour at Loftus Road and might relish the chance of regular first-team football, albeit a step down.
Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones expressed his desire to take Barton to Hillsborough: "If he became available, he would be a player we'd look at. The deal would need to be right for the club and for Joey." Jones, who is chasing back-to-back promotions: "He's got a reputation but then so have a number of players we've got at this club and it wouldn't be something that would put us off bringing a player of Joey's calibre to the club."
While Owls fans do not deny his undoubted ability, they do not all seem convinced Barton would be a useful addition to the squad. On Sheffield Wednesday's fans forum Owlstalk, there were concerns the deal would affect squad morale. One fan protested: "There has to be a limit as to how many bad apples a manager can take on."
Another supporter was keen to start a "he has sinned and I never want him in a Wednesday shirt" campaign. Other fans were more concerned that the deal would damage their club's reputation: "I cannot believe our club will want to tarnish its image for a fast buck."
While a loan move could prove a potential masterstroke for Championship managers, it also represents a risky gamble. Manchester City, Newcastle United and QPR have all given chances to Barton to prove his maturity at the highest level. How many more does he need? Max Bentley