Wednesday 2 July ~
After he was given a suspended sentence for beating Ousmane Dabo unconscious during a training match, it seems clear to most of the press that Newcastle won’t be releasing Joey Barton from his contract but instead welcoming him back to pre-season training when he is released from prison next week. However, Barton can expect a cut in his £65,000-per-week wages and will have to adhere to a strict code of conduct with his behaviour. But does the offer of one more chance come from Kevin Keegan’s will to bring redemption to Barton or is it simply a case of financial and footballing pragmatism?
If Newcastle were to sack Barton they would receive no compensation for the £5.8 million they paid for him last summer (with the charge of assault on Dabo hanging over him at the time) and be forced to replace one of their most talented players out of an already tight summer transfer budget. It is no surprise that many are arguing that however savage the attack on Dabo – one that Georgios Samaras said was the most violent incident he had ever seen on a football pitch and which ended with Barton continuing to punch the unconscious Dabo – the financial loss of taking what many would deem to be the moral high ground was just too high for Newcastle. After all, were this a youth player or ageing pro with little financial value would Newcastle be taking the same stance? Or indeed if Barton worked in a nine-to-five job rather than that of a footballer?
But whether for monetary reasons or not, it has to be a good thing that Keegan is trying to help the clearly troubled Barton, who has tried to deal with his issues already through Sporting Chance. Those that are saying that Newcastle should wash their hands of Barton should remember that just last month many were discussing whether Paul Gascoigne’s life would have taken a happier path had he moved to Manchester United and had Alex Ferguson in charge of his development, a man who has set many on the straight and narrow. Whatever the reason for Barton getting another chance, his entire future as a professional footballer may now depend on Keegan succeeding where Stuart Pearce and Sam Allardyce failed.
Finally, an honourable mention must go to Sylvain Distin’s contribution to the reputation of the modern football and his respect for Dabo and British justice. When asked to testify over the Barton incident by an investigating officer, it is reported that Distin just laughed and said: “You can lock me up for ten years, I’m not coming back off my holiday.” Nice. Josh Widdicombe