Disgraced midfielder Joey Barton faces a showdown meeting with Alan Shearer over his Newcastle United future today.
The controversial £60,000-a-week player has not been seen at St James's Park since his X-rated tackle on Xabi Alonso which earned him a red card in Newcastle's 3-0 thrashing at Liverpool.
Shearer kicked the former Manchester City man out of Newcastle indefinitely after a stand-up row between the pair in the Anfield dressing room, confronting Barton and telling him his challenge was 'a coward's tackle'.
Barton responded with a tirade of abuse, insulting Shearer and his assistant Iain Dowie in the process, to the astonishment of his team-mates.
The interim manager has the backing of owner Mike Ashley over theissue and he is still adamant that he does not want Barton to play forthe club again while he is in charge. Newcastle officials have beenexamining employment law during the two-week break and gatheringevidence to see if they can terminate his £60,000-a-week contract.
IfNewcastle are successful in sacking Barton, the Liverpool-bornmidfielder, who cost the club £5.8 million from City two years ago,would be allowed to leave as a free agent and that would make himattractive to some clubs.
Bolton and Portsmouth have shown interest in the 26-year-old previously and Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce signed him for Newcastle and may feel he is oneof the few managers in the Barclays Premier League who can handle sucha volatile character.
Shearer said last week he had spoken to Barton briefly after their row and the player was contrite and has apologised. He is still keen to see out the remaining three years of his Newcastle contract but he may be fighting a losing battle.
Newcastle have heard his apologies before after standing by Barton when he was jailed last year for assault causing actual bodily harm and patience has run out throughout the club.