Give Joey Barton a break or Premier League circus will just make him worse
It is an atmosphere he is demonstrably unable to handle. Whether his indefinite suspension from Newcastle is seen by others as the just deserts of an ill-tempered oaf does not matter; however it is described, it is in his best interests. Related ArticlesShearer policy backedKay: Barton needs to grow upNewcastle and Kevin Keegan scout for qualityDaniel Agger agrees contract extension with LiverpoolAlan Shearer backs Michael Owen to fire Newcastle to Premier League safetyFootball Quiz: Friday Five - The AnswersThe essence of sport is competition, if not conflict; more so when it is the livelihood of the participants. Add to this the presence of tens of thousands of committed supporters, the scrutiny of television, radio and other forms of media and you have a situation that challenges those players who have rationality and experience. The occasional sins of players such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and the like attest to the fact that such demands can make the best player do regretful things. When these stresses are visited upon a person with obvious frailties, there is never going to be a happy outcome until the demons that revel in chaos are neutered; they will never be removed permanently. Barton should have sufficient money to secure his future, but he will not have one unless he removes himself for whatever period is deemed necessary by those trying to help him. The professional judgment of organisations such as the Sporting Chance Clinic will not involve any consideration of the forthcoming season and it is essential that Barton is now guided by their advice, rather than that of his agent, or any manager or coach. In doing this he will also stop his colleagues having to deal with a litany of inevitable questions about his future, popularity, or lack thereof; in short, matters which should not be visited upon them. He has to be made to recognise that he is not the only person affected by his behaviour. Nobody now can say what Barton's footballing future will be. It could be that he does not have one, but his sanity is more important. If this means he does not play at this, or any, level again, it is a price worth paying – ask Paul Gascoigne. In contrast, consider Sir Alex Ferguson. The many accolades given to him principally address his phenomenal footballing achievements; no better displayed than in Tuesday night's demolition of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal in the semi-final second leg of the Champions League. Yet on top of this, he deserves to have added praise for his personal courage in being able to focus on the job in hand despite his daughter-in-law and grandchildren being injured in a car crash earlier in the day. Any parent or near relative will confirm that during such times of trial this kind of anxiety can make concentration almost impossible as the emotions cloud the thoughts. That Ferguson was able to conduct himself with focused dignity could, to some, be the sign of coldness, almost inhumanity, but his passion is well known. Therefore, this control, exactly the opposite of that shown by Barton is a mark of his character, not a character defect.
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