Sky Sports recently broke news that Joey Barton’s contract offer at Newcastle had been withdrawn by the club and suggested that he would leave the club once his deal expires. The source in question is Barton’s agent, the notorious Willie McKay who spoke to Sky Sports news regarding the situation. On first glance, it may seem to be a worst case scenario for Newcastle United fans, but many may be missing out on the bigger picture here and not realise that this could be (and is most very likely) a clever ploy by the players agent in order to tip the balance in his favour.  In other words, Willie McKay is most likely looking to put pressure on the Newcastle board and get one last big pay day from one of his clients, who is now 28 and playing some of the best football of his career.

Although I may be slightly non-objective being a Newcastle fan, I’ve always been a keen defender of Newcastle’s Number 7. A man that made many mistakes in the past is now open about his problems and making genuine efforts to form himself into a better human being, as can be seen through the way he hasn’t had a drink for more than three years .A player that grew up in some of the roughest parts of Liverpool, Barton does a lot for children from the area in order to make sure that they don’t go down the wrong path; although you’ll rarely hear the press go on about it. Barton’s image created framed by the media often leads him to be under the spotlight when he does the slightest thing within football these days, whereas other footballers who are heralded as heroes of the game receive nowhere near the same treatment. A prime example can be seen in Newcastle’s recent 2-2 with Chelsea, where Frank Lampard made a malicious and cynical tackle from behind on Barton himself, which only got him a yellow card. No outcry from the media or the fans and not even a mention on Match Of The Day later that evening, I guess he holds that old commentary cliché of “not being that sort of player”. I don’t condone what Barton has done in the past and I’m sure he doesn’t either, but I thought I’d just write this little paragraph so hopefully there can be a control on the Barton haters commenting (although there will no doubt be someone who wants to peddle the bandwagon along).

Barton has become a hero at Newcastle. His great performances and key role in midfield has made him loved by the fans and many seem devastated by the news that he won’t be signing a new contract with the club. But Toon fans need not despair, as it is not the end of the world. It is true that there are some genuine and decent football agents out there (believe it or not), but Willie McKay has a little bit of a history that would suggest he isn’t one of those individuals. The name may seem familiar, but McKay has been given constant allegations of corruption within football in the past, and was even arrested in the Portsmouth scandal along with current Tottenham Hotspurs manager Harry Redknapp. McKay was also fined and banned from operating for one transfer window due to his role in Benjani’s sale from Auxerre to Portsmouth and then from Portsmouth to Man City in two consecutive seasons, breaching FA rules by acting as the selling party for a player twice in a row.

It would be easy to attack Newcastle’s board and in particular Mike Ashley at this moment in time, and I’m sure that many Toon fans will. Yet it is under good authority from local North East journalist Lee Ryder that Barton’s representatives have already been offered two lucrative deals that have been turned down. For all the criticism of the Newcastle board, the one thing they have done that gains respect is to not be pushed around by wages demands and prices. Seb Larsson was all set to sign for Newcastle, yet the club rebuked his high wage demands and refused to be pushed over, and this is a welcome change from the Newcastle of old that used to dish out copious amounts of money for “high profile” players. The salary cap was supposed to be £30,000 per week, yet it is more than likely that Newcastle broke this rule in order to keep Barton at the club. He is a key player and in the prime of his career, the player has been the main cog in the Newcastle machine this season and vital to their success. It has been suggested that a stumbling block in the deal may be the length of the contract,  as Newcastle are offering fewer years than Barton is asking for, although whether or not there is any truth in this remains to be seen.

If Newcastle fans need any reminding, Steven Taylor was in a similar situation not too long ago. The player refused to sign a new deal which seemed to be a ploy in order to pressure the club for higher wages. This resulted in Newcastle putting Taylor on the transfer list and making a firm stand on the player. Eventually though, Taylor did sign a new contract with the club and it appears as though Newcastle were not pushed around on the demands. This shows how agents have become one of the main features of modern football and have so much power in the game. McKay has went to Sky Sports in order to put pressure on the board and is trying to whip the fans into a frenzy as he knows that they desire Barton to stay with the club. So shall we blame the Newcastle board for all this? In this instance, I think not. Joey may well leave the club and that would be unfortunate, yet it would be wrong to just give into higher demands and one player does not make a club. Newcastle may decide to cash in on Barton before they risk losing him on a free and it would be such a shame to lose such an influential player, yet the news broke today by Sky Sports and Willie McKay reeks of being a plot by the agent. There is still time for Newcastle to retain their talisman, but fans shouldn’t feel that today is the end of negotiations with Barton.

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