Des Kelly: We simply can't turn our backs on Joey Barton

12 February 2011 12:45
Allow me to put my cards on the table straight away. I don't like Joey Barton. Actually, I can't stand the bloke.

Hishistory of violence makes this a fairly straightforward call for me,since I have a natural aversion to people who stub out cigars on theeyelids of apprentice players, knock team-mates unconscious and have atendency to beat people all the way to casualty in 5am drunken rages.

Somesay, 'If you met Joey, you would change your mind', but I'd rather keephim at a considerable distance, thank you very much, because all theavailable evidence suggests that he can be a fairly horrible human being.

Thisis not a view that will keep the Newcastle United footballer awake atnight. Why would he care what I think? The problem for Barton is that,if the events of this week are anything to go by, I suspect FabioCapello feels the same way.

Whena succession of midfield players pulled out of England's internationalfriendly date in Denmark, Barton's mobile remained resolutely silent.

Damaged goods: Joey Barton is unlikely to play for England again

This prompted his poor agent to cry he was 'shocked' the player had been ignored, reminding us, 'Joey is no angel but does a lot of work for charity and things', adding Barton deserves a second chance.

Actually, I think it would rank as at least his seventh chance, although everybody appears to have lost count some time ago.

But,for argument's sake, let us leave aside messy questions about moralambiguity in the game for a moment, and agree that Barton's form putshim in a position where he should be under serious consideration for asquad place.

The playerhas been a driving force for Newcastle all season and can claim to beamong the most effective midfielders of this Premier League campaign.

Last weekend, Barton set thetone for that epic and belligerent four-goal comeback against Arsenalwith an uncompromising tackle; one that prompted Abou Diaby toretaliate and pick up the red card that precipitated the Gunners'collapse.

There is acontrolled aggression and effectiveness about his play right now thatfew equal. So if Barton is performing well enough to warrant an Englandplace, should the stigma of his grubby past disqualify him?

In an ideal world, the answer would be an unequivocal 'yes'.

Representing your country at any sport remains one of the greatest honours in the game, a privilege that should be beyond the reach of convicted louts and scumbags.

  More from Des Kelly. Des Kelly: Aldridge shoots from the lip (but he's way off target this time)04/02/11 Des Kelly: Did Keys and Gray exits smash sexism? Do me a favour28/01/11 Des Kelly: Loyalty? Bruce has jumped ship even more than Jack Sparrow21/01/11 Des Kelly: Don't let Spurs vandals wreck London 2012 Olympic legacy14/01/11 Des Kelly: The sack race is in full flow and it's all your fault!07/01/11 Des Kelly: Hodgson does a Ratner. and it's curtains for the Liverpool boss31/12/10 Des Kelly: Why should we listen to these chicken nuggets at Blackburn?18/12/10 Des Kelly: Newcastle fans should spare us all the Pard luck story10/12/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE But then we remember that, if possessing a disreputable track record equated to an automatic ban from England duty, Capello would be sending out a five-a-side team for most international matches.

The notion that a moral code exists in football is essentially redundant these days. To judge by the Football Association's recent selection criteria, the basic rule is that any player is pretty much available as long as they are not in jail.

England can hardly wield Bar ton's disciplinary issues as a justification for excluding him when they select Andy Carroll, a player cautioned for assaulting a woman, who had another charge of assaulting a former girlfriend dropped, was convicted of hitting a man in the face with a glass while drunk and arrested after breaking a team-mate's jaw on the training ground.

Where's the morality in that? Is it one law for Carroll and another for Barton? Why, the two might even make ideal room-mates.

Barton has at least sought to curb his excesses, attending the Sporting Chance Clinic and accepting help with his 'anger management' issues.

So far, it has brought rewards. Barton has largely avoided trouble since emerging from 77 days in jail (yes, we are reduced to commending a player for not continuing to behave like a criminal), although he faces Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen today, the player he punched in the ribs in November to earn a three-game ban.

But, aside from that idiotic slip, there has been a change in attitude. Before, Barton used to parade the considerable chip on his shoulder, seemingly convinced he was the victim of some great injustice.

Talking on the pitch: Barton converts the second of two penalties against Arsenal to help Newcastle secure a remarkable comeback

He was constantly bleating about how he was 'misunderstood' and 'a good guy really', only for those protestations to blow up in his face as he was dragged off to another courtroom.

Three years ago, he appeared incurably arrogant. He said: 'I'll tell you one thing I am proud of; when I'm finished I'll be able to look back at my career and know that I was never this media-hyped ponce who was manufactured.

'The thing people can relate to with me is I've always done it my way, even if it might have been the wrong way. I don't regret a single thing because it's made me the person I am.'

Unfortunately, the person he was proved to be revolting, particularly in drink. And if he wasn't regretting a single thing then, he surely will rue the day when he looks back on a career that was measured in days behind bars, not international caps.

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It was certainly sickening to see him walk from Strangeways prison and straight back into his ?60,000-a-week job, a privilege that would not have been granted to any other person in a high-profile position. But at Newcastle they are giving Barton his shot at redemption.

The player's competitiveness has earned the respect of the fans at St James' Park, or whatever Mike Ashley is trying to call it these days.

Reformed character? Barton leaves Strangeways after his spell inside

And, if Barton can tame his considerable mouth as well as his sociopathic tendencies, more people will be prepared to turn a blind eye to his offences and press his claim for an international recall.

So should he play for England again? In time, perhaps. It no longer matters whether Barton is liked, but if he warrants his place on merit and whether we can accept an individual is capable of atoning for the sins of his past.

However, if history is any guide, the best way to plot a path through the moral maze is to advance cautiously, since Barton usually self-destructs and promptly removes the problem. If he proves otherwise, then everybody wins.

 Tottenham Hotspur have been making noises about legal action following their defeat in the battle to take control of the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is said to be upset about the politicking and conflicts of interest in the process.

This is the same Levy who has Sir Keith Mills on his club board, who also happens to be deputy chairman of the London 2012 committee.

The same chairman who hired Mike Lee, the spin doctor who was part of the original London 2012 bid team who originally promised an athletics track would remain at the Olympic Stadium.

So what is the basis of Levy's complaints that Spurs failed somehow to exploit as many conflicts of interest as West Ham? 

 Tattoo gives Carew a lesson in FrenchEnlarge Tattoo you: Daniel Agger shows off his body art

Footballers ' tattoos are so extraordinarily commonplace these days, it can only be a matter of time before one of them sells their skin as sponsorship space.

Liverpool's Denmark defender Daniel Agger is the latest to unveil a body almost entirely covered in ink. The images on his back are supposed to represent a Viking graveyard, but he looks more like a Tube train left in a railway siding overnight.

At least he stuck mainly to pictures. When I was in Beijing for the Olympics, a woman mapped out my name in Mandarin and suggested it would make an ideal tattoo.

But I could not shake off the thought that she might have a malicious sense of humour and that I would forever walk around with 'chicken in black bean sauce' etched on my arm.

So I feel for John Carew right now. The Stoke City striker thought the phrase 'My Life, My Rules' was written in French on his neck.

Unfortunately, a reversed accent above the 'e' gave it a dual meaning and he will forever be the bearer of a message which also means 'My Life, My Periods'.

He's really grumpy about this. Once a month too, I hear.

 Now I understand why they call it Mount 'Kili'manjaroOn the basis that I like to do all of my annual exercise in one go, I've signed up to tackle Kilimanjaro as part of a Football League team raising funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Scaling Africa's highest peak promises to be an unbelievable experience, because I'll be heading to the summit with my friend Chris 'Unbelievable' Kamara and I'm already planning a sweepstake on the number of times he yells that word before I nudge him off a precipice.

Also in our merry band is Coventry manager Aidy Boothroyd, Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers and Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson.

The aim is to raise a total of ?500,000 for the charity; enough to pay for 25,000 hours of personal treatment by cancer care nurses.

I've never been above 19,000ft before, other than inside an aircraft, but I was working on the assumption that, if chubby Chris Moyles can reach the top, anyone can.

Then I heard that Martina Navratilova, not exactly a slouch in the fitness department, was airlifted to hospital a few weeks ago with high-altitude pulmonary edema, otherwise known as an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

I also discovered that only 30 per cent of climbers make it to the summit and most get ill along the way. In 2007 four climbers were killed in the space of just seven days, while some estimates claim 50 people die on the ascent every year.

And to think I believed those who told me it was just a 'very tough hike'. So you won't be surprised to hear I'll be making plenty of Marie Curie sponsorship appeals on this page before I set off, just to make it worthwhile.

If you would like to donate please visit:

 Explore more:People: John Carew, Mike Ashley, Daniel Levy, Mike Lee, Joey Barton, Chris Moyles, Martina Navratilova, Keith Mills, Brendan Rodgers, Daniel Agger Places: Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Denmark, United Kingdom, Africa, Olympic Stadium Organisations: Football Association, Football League

Source: Daily_Mail

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