JOEY Barton is proud of the fact he has the strength of character to bounce back from the mistakes he makes, he just wishes he did not need to.
Few footballers are more enjoyable to interview than Barton. Articulate, forthright, honest and candid, he is a refreshing break from norm.
He has some strong opinions and does not try to hide them. He does not pretend not to think something just because it might upset people around him. He is a straight talker whose willingness to put things bluntly can be cutting. At times he can appear conceited and arrogant, yet he is probably one of the most down to earth, friendly and articulate footballers around. He is a walking contradiction.
He has a violent temper, but a gentle nature, He is a rebel who wants to stay out of trouble, an ego with an acute sense of duty to the collective cause.
He is a millionaire footballer who remains a man of the people. He is a character who thrives on adversity, but curses himself every time he has to prove it. He is a player who is derided for his behaviour, but praised for his performances. He is a footballer people just love to hate.
“I always knew I’d be back from what has happened to me,” said Barton, who returned from a three game suspension for punching Blackburn Morten Gamst Pedersen to help inspire Newcastle to a 3-1 win over Liverpool.
“I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary inner strength. To get yourself in the s*** I’ve got myself in and to come back, and the level I’m at, with everything that goes on with the media intrusion and media spotlight . . .
“Maybe a lesser character would wilt under that. I don’t’ know what it is about me, whatever it is, there is some mechanism that thrives on adversity.
“I’ve found in the last couple of years it’s probably better to live without that adversity. I know the man I am, and the people who I respect, and who I’ve got a high opinion of, know what kind of man I am. For me that’s the most important thing.
“I see a lot of people in this industry being false to themselves and being this person they want others to perceive them as. I see that every single day, there’s a load of bullshit merchants, I don’t need to name names, that’s the industry we’re in.
“For me I know the person I am and it’s taken me to fall off the track a couple of times to find that person, but I’m thankful I got there.
“I’m not out of the woods yet, life’s a journey and I’m just enjoying my journey now. I’ve been in enough bad times to enjoy the good times and hopefully they’ll carry on here.” He added: “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I know the man I am. That’s the most important thing to me and it’s nice when people see you for the man you are.
“For some people it’ll never be good enough, but I’m not going to waste my energy worrying about that. I’m me and as long as I’ve got the respect of the team-mates and the staff and my family that’s the most important thing.” By rights, Barton probably should not still be playing for Newcastle.
He was jailed for assault for attacking two people in Liverpool on a drunken night out three years ago, has been plagued by injuries and loss of form and even fell out with Alan Shearer during his brief stint as manager in 2009 following a needless sending-off against Liverpool. He has been booed and jeered, but he has always regained the affection of the fans with his commitment and, when fit, his performances.
The 28-year-old has been integral part of the Newcastle machine so far this season to such an extent that most will be desperate to see him sign an extension to a contract which only has 18 months left to run. Thankfully, he is already willing to sign one. He explained: “Being fit and part of a group like this, that’s always going to make you happy. And when your own form’s good and the team’s form’s decent, it’s a great atmosphere.
“I’ve got a lot of things to make up for at this club and that’s still my goal. Obviously, once you start coming towards the end of a contract, people start making noises and that’s the case. Who that is, I don’t know. I’m enjoying my football here and I’d quite happily stay here for the rest of my career. Everyone in and around the club is aware of that. I’m not banging on people’s doors saying I want a new deal. I’m a strong believer in fate and when the time’s right we’ll sit down with the club and if it’s the right thing to do we’ll get it done.
“I’ve got quite an affinity with the Newcastle fans because of everything that’s gone on and think that, if I can’t go to one of the big clubs in the world, I’m quite happy to stay here. Outside the teams going for the title, the reason I came here was they were capable, with the fan base, of pushing on.
“The places we’ve gone this season and won, and the way we’ve performed, gives me the belief that with maybe a couple of signings here and there, we have the potential to break into the top six top or eight.”