The World versus Joey Barton

The Premier League Owl

Yes, yes, what Joey Barton did yesterday was idiotic, and should he receive a lengthy ban then justice will have been served.

It’s amazing though how eager so many people are to vilify him.

This is not a defence for what happened on the pitch at Eastlands yesterday, but an observation on it – no sooner had Barton gone, not exactly willingly, down the tunnel, then the haters were out in force on Twitter. ‘A leopard never changes it’s spots’, ‘Barton reverting to type’, ‘once a criminal always a thug’ – have a look at the timelines of some of the country’s more established journalists. The glee with which they reported the incident, and passed judgement on it, was pretty unpalatable.

There was such joy at seeing Barton let himself down.

What agitates most writers about QPR’s captain, is not that he occasionally loses his discipline on or off the pitch, it’s that he can’t be put in a box and defined. Sportswriters like to apply labels to players, both as footballers and human-beings, and nothing agitates them more than one who refuses to adhere to that definition.

Barton is a fool frequently, but there’s such distasteful glee at seeing him stumble. Yes, that ‘glee’ is dressed up as commentators being ‘appalled’, and ‘shocked’ by his behaviour, and insisting that his actions are ‘disgraceful’ – but really, they love it when he gifts them some column inches.

If this had been another player, we’d have all been scathing about his behaviour of course, but it would be tinged with an acceptance of ‘the pressure of the situation’ – with Barton, no such mitigating circumstances exist. Nor should they, but it still represents a double standard.

Yesterday clearly demonstrated the wilful hyperbole that accompanies the judgement on Barton’s behaviour. According to some, that was ‘the worst thing they’d ever seen on an English football pitch’. Sorry, but that wasn’t even the gravest offence on that individual pitch – have a quick YouTube of Ben Thatcher knocking Pedro Mendes unconscious a couple of years ago.

Even within the context of this season, we’ve seen Mario Balotelli try to stamp on Scott Parker’s face and nearly end Alex Song’s career, yet the Italian is presented as a figure of fun and a sort of happy-go-lucky character. Barton is apparently a villain though, and although the player doesn’t help himself, the press love nothing more than pushing him back into his box.

Look at the original red card offence; Carlos Tevez got Barton dismissed – yet there’s no mention of that, either the original punch or the flagrant play-acting. Had that been any other English player, we’d be deriding Tevez for his ‘Latin tricks’ this morning, but because it’s Barton we’re not.

It’s just an observation…

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