Joey Barton is a controversial man. Whether it is the past he is so desperate to get away from or his obvious attempts to speak out on issues in order to be the centre of attention, he has constantly been in the media spotlight for the majority of his footballing career. Barton is a familiar trending topic on Twitter, as he uses the social media website to speak bluntly about the slightest little thing that is bothering him. It can seem forced and staged a lot of the time, but it gets people riled and the media have a field day over QPR’s Joey. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, Barton will have an opinion that will be so heavily weighed on one side of the scale, it will cause debate all over Twitter. Sadly for Joey, the media are more interested in what argument he is having lately, as he fails to put in top-level performances for QPR, with his career stagnating and becoming more about his quarrels than his ability. It would be easy to forget that Joey Barton is a footballer.
I was once a fan of Joey Barton. His charitable activities and abstinence from drinking were rarely picked up on by the media, although Joey never really spoke out about it. Until his contract disputes with Newcastle United (which I wrote about in May 2011, believing Joey and his agent to be using fan support to pressure the board), I felt Joey was really changing things around at Newcastle and was finally becoming the footballer he always should have been. Then Joey got Twitter. Although I initially felt that Joey’s contract disputes were the result of his agent (which is the case in a lot of negotiations these days in football), his Twitter account told a much different story. It only took a few days for Barton to use the social networking site to speak out about the Newcastle board, gaining much support from fans who already had a strong dislike for owner Mike Ashley. For myself, it was clear to see that Barton was merely attempting to rally support for his own cause, although I’m sure few could have predicted how the situation would escalate thanks to Joey and his Twitter.
It was almost as if Barton’s initial outburst regarding his former employers set off a little light-bulb in his head that made him realise the power of mixing social media with his fame status. Many fans were outraged when the club decided to transfer list Barton and offer him to clubs for free, which in hindsight for many angry supporters proved to be an astute move. Public outbursts about the people who paid his wages, bust-ups in the Newcastle dressing room and constant bickering about non-issues paint a different picture for Barton these days. The controversial Joey of old that he was so glad to see the back of has been replaced by an egotistical character who craves attention, preventing any hope of opinions changing about the midfielder.
Joey Barton moved to Queens Park Rangers (on a very generous wage), but this wasn’t the end of Barton’s keyboard warrior activities, as he still can’t resist embarrassing himself with a rant against someone. Matt Holland was one of the most recent victims of Barton’s typing skills, as Barton attacked Holland’s decision to play for Ireland (despite being born in England). Although Holland played in a World Cup for Ireland, scored a few memorable goals and is remembered fondly by some of the clubs he played for (with commitment might I add), Barton still felt he was not “relevant”. Barton also upset Irish followers by making comments related to Irish footballers who qualify through family relations, although quickly scrambled to attempt to rectify the situation by claiming “Irish” could be subtitled for any of the home nations. Barton then decided to have a “sabbatical from Twitter”. On coming back and claiming it was enjoyable, is now Tweeting more than ever…
Comments from Barton regarding recently sacked QPR manager Neil Warnock will be a headache for own Tony Fernandes, however. Although Warnock is no longer manager, Barton is speaking out about an issue related to the club, and this was what forced his former employers at Newcastle to take such drastic action. Warnock was asked about Joey Barton in an interview and replied with “[I] just want to talk about positive things at the club.” This resulted in a furious public backlash from Barton, who ironically hit back at Warnock’s claims of Barton “talking too much” by replying to the statement with 7 different Tweets. Quite hypocritical of a player who said he was “gutted” by the sacking of Warnock only 2 weeks previous.
Watching Barton on Twitter is strangely fascinating, as you see a man who is desperate to fit into a persona. Googling Nietzsche quotes and then Tweeting them, describing the capital as “Londinium” and talking about art is just not Joey Barton, and the frequency at which he mentions such things cries out of a person who is craving attention and a chance for people to see him in a different light. I apologise for generalising, Joey, but I don’t think there are many kids brought up on a council estate in Liverpool who have those sorts of interests. I’m a big proponent of second chances and people having the chance to change their life around, but the way Barton pushes these things on his followers and talks as if he is a scholar and voice for the modern generation is laughable.
The saddest thing for Barton, however, is that Twitter appears to be all he has left. One good season at Newcastle United is all Barton has to look back on, as his form for QPR has never reached the level of a player who once made claims for a place in the English national team. Although Barton was an important player for Newcastle, he brought a lot of extra baggage with him, and was prone to losing his discipline in games, which resulted in some eccentric play. The result of Barton’s downfall at Newcastle could rear its ugly head at Queens Park Rangers, as his recent outburst against a former boss shows a player who can create turmoil within a club. I’m not so sure QPR will take any action whatsoever against Barton, and will continue to allow him to express his cant views on whatever he feels like, which could cause problems in the future. Joey Barton’s attempts to control the Newcastle dressing room were a massive factor in the board’s decision to rid themselves of the midfielder. I’m not fan of Neil Warnock, but I agree with his views regarding the dangerous nature of Tweeting like that of Joey Barton’s. Maybe Joey should instead be grateful to the manager who gave him a chance after his disposal from Newcastle.
Barton doesn’t seem to understand that he completely contradicts his belief that he is taking the higher ground against people who speak out against him by engaging in furious outbursts, being hypocritical in every sense. Barton should focus less on his imaging and social media antics and more on improving his form for QPR and helping them stay in the league. I can’t but help feel that we are seeing history repeat itself here, and Barton’s career is starting to dwindle down the drain due to his brash nature and constant attempts to be controversial on social networking website Twitter. Oh Joey, why didn’t you just start a boring football Twitter account, like @TheMichaelOwen?
Follow me on Twitter @Clusks