Newcastle's Joey Barton and Twitter: A Marriage Made In Heaven Or Hell?

On one side you've got the Joey Barton furore, on the other you've got the efforts on behalf of Jack Marshall...
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On one side you've got the Joey Barton furore, on the other you've got the efforts on behalf of Jack Marshall...

I must admit I had mixed feelings watching the Joey Barton and the Newcastle United Twitter saga unfold recently.

The football purist in me found it unfortunate and unseemly that so much dirty linen should be aired in public - especially when it involved a North-East institution and a talented footballer with so much to offer on the field.

On the flip side - the journalist in me found the whole thing a fantastic and intriguing read, a new news line with every Tweet.

Watching an individual challenge authority is always great to watch - whether it's the mouthy lad in class at school or a bloke outside Parliament with a megaphone.

Lots of people would love to do something like that - but few have the bottle - so they're quite happy to see how someone else gets on.

That said - was there really that much risk to Joey Barton? What's the worst that could happen?

You could say it would be Mike Ashley's PA presenting Joey with his P45 - but then that makes him a free agent able to negotiate far better terms at another club.

The rights and wrongs of that aren't for the writer of this article to decide on - but football's latest Twitter incident has shown beyond doubt the site's potential  to cause major headaches for football's Chief Execs, Chairmen, Owners and Managers.

Whether it's a player posting mocked up pictures of a referee in a rival team’s shirt - or another player fighting a PR war over his future - it's seriously embarrassing for football clubs - who understandably like to keep a tight rein on their media relations nowadays.

So how do they deal with it? A question no doubt being asked in managers’ offices and boardrooms right across the football world.

Just this week I was at a press call with Derby County manager Nigel Clough - who told us he'd brought the issue of Twitter up with his players that same morning.

He'd "advised" them not to use Twitter - but said if they must go on it - to avoid mentioning anything to do with football.

You can only begin to imagine what Nigel's Dad would have made of Twitter - but this is a totally different time with totally different challenges for managers and it's very difficult to dictate to in-demand multi-millionaires what they can and can't do in their spare time.

The conclusion I've come to personally is that Twitter is a wonderful invention that has a fantastic ability to bring people and information together in one place

That said, you can totally understand the negative view of Twitter held by many managers - to most of them it's simply a nuisance - just something else to worry about - although I did notice one manager using it to their own advantage recently.

Known for his man-management skills - Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is one of the few managers who actually has their own Twitter account (@kennethdalglish).

Clearly well aware of how vital Luis Suarez will be to him this coming season - Dalglish tweeted the Uruguayan striker (in Spanish) to wish him good luck ahead of the recent Copa America Final. Suarez then went on to score in a 3-0 win over Paraguay - a result which saw his country win the tournament for a record 15th time.

Cynics might argue this will have had a minimal effect on the relationship between player and manager - but what can't be denied is the power of Twitter to help connect players and fans in a positive way.

Never before has there been such a huge gap between the lifestyles of footballers and the people who pay to watch them every week - yet here we have a social networking tool that can help bridge that gap.

Any one of Rio Ferdinand's (@rioferdy5) 1.3 million followers has a chance of getting a reply back - or even a 'retweet'.

From a purely voyeuristic point of view - fans of the Manchester United defender can see personal pictures he posts and read about what he's up to - they're even treated to front-row seats when Rio engages in his latest 'Twitter-spat' with former newspaper editor Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan).

All this can be entertaining - but to see the combination of Twitter and Football at its best - and perhaps most powerful - look no further than the case of a 6 year old Manchester United fan called Jack Marshall.

Just weeks after starting reception school Jack was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.

In the months afterwards the 'Jack Marshall Brain Tumour Fund' was set up by his parents to support Jack in any way required and also to raise awareness of Childhood Brain Tumours in the wider community.

Key to the success of this fund has been the involvement of top Premier League footballers in promoting Jack's cause through Twitter (@Jack_Marshall_).

Rio Ferdinand even invited Jack and his family to United's Carrington training ground - leading to touching pictures being posted on Jack's Twitter account - including one showing a hug between Jack and his favourite player Wayne Rooney.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) has kept in regular contact with the family and wears a wristband that raises awareness of the Jack Marshall Fund.

Many other good causes have benefited from similar exposure - ironically even campaigns to keep struggling football clubs financially afloat!

The conclusion I've come to personally is that Twitter is a wonderful invention that has a fantastic ability to bring people and information together in one place. I now 'follow' hundreds of other people with a common interest in football and really enjoy it.

No system involving the free-will of people can ever be perfect - particularly when mixed with the often crazy world of football.

Even without Ryan Babel in the Premier League anymore - I've no doubt we'll see a lot more Twitter related fines dished out by clubs and the FA - but it's an internet phenomenon that's here to stay and personally I'm really pleased about that.

After all, where else would we have the pleasure of seeing Joey Barton quote George Orwell and George Washington?

10 Football Folk Not On Twitter Who Should Be

1. Vladimir Romanov

2. Jose Mourinho

3. Roy Keane

4. Mario Balotelli

5. Diego Maradona

6. Eric Cantona

7. David Beckham

8. Ashley Cole

9. El Hadji Diouf

10. Barry Fry

Why I'm Glad Joey Barton Has Left  Newcastle United

Joey Barton Sacked: Here’s Why He Is Perfect For Manchester United

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