From pulling quotes off websites to having run-ins with everyone including himself, QPR's Barton can't stop tweeting. But is it doing him any favours and shouldn't we just ignore him?
The motivation behind Joey Barton trying to reinvent himself are fairly clear. Here you have a footballer fast approaching 30 who has achieved little with his talents, a player who will be known mostly for his controversial flashpoints on the pitch and his deplorable behaviour off it. Indeed, in a few years people will talk about his court cases more than they will his memorable matches.
It is this that prompted a rapid rethink from Joey Barton and saw him try to harness the power of Twitter in an attempt to make himself a footballer of the people, to try and reinvent himself as a footballing philosopher. He renounced violence and declared himself a pacifist (a strange standpoint from a player who thought little of stubbing a cigar out in a youth player’s eye for kicks), while quoting philosophers and great thinkers he clearly had never read extensively or even understood. At the same time he would champion every maverick going, from politician to musician, in an all too unsubtle attempt to try and equate himself to their greatness. In his mind they were the same. They don’t play by the rules. Neither does Joey.
It was amusing for a time and the media duly lapped it up, reporting every outpouring of nonsense and even attempting to solicit responses where they could. A few awkward TV appearances ensued but they were forgiven. After all, the lad still produced the goods on Twitter, lashing out at perceived injustices, taking pot-shots at the popular hate figures in football and providing all too candid views about whatever was on his mind that day.
Barton’s insistence he could still be a key player for England seems hollow and insane
All this attention ensured that he made the headlines more often for his diatribes in 140 character instalments than for anything he did on the pitch. Failing to shine in a mediocre team, failing to live up to the hype that his agent spread around liberally once it was clear that he was leaving Newcastle, Barton’s insistence he could still be a key player for England seems hollow and insane.
Increasingly though his tweets have started to read like little more than the voices in his head, incoherent ramblings about people he will never associate with, paranoid delusions about how everyone is out to get him, constant contradictory views to his actions. Worse than any of that they have become predictable and boring, the player running out of ideas and resorting to the obvious in a bid to cling to the popularity that he seemingly craves above footballing accolades.
Why else would he have turned on Neil Warnock, the manager that took a punt on him despite his dubious credentials, when the supposed big teams who were interested refused point blank to work with him, especially after having said how disappointed he was to be leaving. Warnock might be no Mourinho and his failings might be clear and obvious but at no point did he point the finger at a player on £80,000 a week who was failing to deliver in a fashion commensurate to his earnings.
“If I talked about Neil, he'd do well to get another job. Twitter cost him his job? I can think of a million other things” he began on a day that had been relatively uneventful, the days where he likes to try and capitalise by typing out whatever he thinks will elicit the biggest response, like a child swearing in adult company. “Lost his job and the guy is blaming everyone but himself! Embarrassing, time to look in the mirror mate.”
It’s like some form of neurotic insecurity bordering on mental illness
Naturally the media lapped it up but should they have? It was as tired and as expected as him picking up a needless booking. Of course, it overshadowed the fact that there were still rumours that the new managerial appointment Hughes was looking to offload him as soon as possible but that’s the culture that is currently being embraced – namely that if you’re on the offensive no-one can be attacking you. It’s like some form of neurotic insecurity bordering on mental illness.
Of course, any attempts from Q.P.R. to sanction the player would be met with the usual rants about free speech, something I think most people would support except that where Barton is concerned, the “speech” he constantly makes seems only to damage his club and unsettle the squad. If he believes that there is a big move in his future then he’d do well to read up on a few manager’s viewpoints relating to social media. Read them, then tweet about how archaic and stupid they are.
I can’t see the motivation a player would have in trying to harm the future employment prospects of a manager that ensured the player had some of his own. It seems distasteful, disloyal, a needlessly poisonous use of a voice that he seems unaware everyone has but elects not to use. This does not make them weak or spineless, nor does it mean they are controlled by shadowy forces. It just makes them professional, compassionate and considered, words that will never be applied to Joey Barton by even his most ardent fans.
Perhaps the biggest conceit in his constant tweeting is the belief that people will still care about those opinions when he has retired. Alas, they are only “newsworthy” in the short term because he is still a current player, because his behaviour deviates from the norm and is unexpected from someone being paid a hefty salary to focus on football and the fortunes of their club. Once his boots are hung up, what is left? A semi-literate, ex-convict who never so much as won a medal in his time as a footballer. He will be passed over for people that bring something a bit more appealing to the table.
And therein lies a sad truth, that the Joey Barton who I saw as a youth could have been an international player and could have featured for bigger clubs. Even now, as Scott Parker has shown, it’s never too late for a renaissance… Yet whatever makes Barton tick ultimately thinks little of the sport he makes a living from and perhaps even, if this isn’t too far reaching, little of himself.
So now we have it, at 29, someone who is desperate to be a spokesman for a generation, is instead staring at a relegation battle once again, no international future, perhaps none at club level in any meaningful capacity and a fanbase that is becoming increasingly bored with what he has to say. That mirror you told Warnock to look at? Make sure you take a turn after him Joey.