Sunday, July 27, 2008

Joey Barton "The Thug"

Joey Barton is a English based Newcastle United player. He plays for them as Defensive Midfielder and currently serving a 6 month prison term for common assault and affray. His career has been marred by numerous controversial incidents and disciplinary actions and he has been convicted twice on chrges of violence. On May 20, 2008 he was sentenced to 6 months prison.
The common perception is that Joey Barton is a thug, the worst example of Premiership excess. Stuart Pearce once said he was guilty of crossing the line from mischief to nastiness. Barton has admitted: “They were right to call me a thug in the papers.”
His half brother, Michael Barton, was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for his involvement in the racially motivated murder.
How did growing up in Huyton shape you?
It’s a tough area, so you had to have a bit of aggression to survive. You can see that in the footballers it has produced, the likes of Peter Reid, Tony Hibbert and Stevie Gerrard. If you didn’t have that steeliness in your game any ability would have been bullied out of you. You had to stand up for yourself and fight. We played as often as we could, making goals out of wood or scaffolding, and our parents didn’t have to worry because we were always on that field.

What were the worst scrapes you got in to?
We got into a few, but it was mostly petty. The worst was throwing mud at buses, because we were always on fields playing football. The estate where I’m from was at the end of the bus route from Liverpool city centre, so over time, we got to know which bus drivers would give you the best chase.

How did you avoid crime?
I had a good upbringing. When I was 14 my mum and dad split up, which forced me to move off the St John’s estate. I went with my Dad, who I was close to, to live at my Nan’s, who was about a mile from there. It weaned me off life on the estate. When your parents first split up, your world crashes down around you, because they’re the centre of your life, but when I look back now it was a blessing in disguise. I know that sounds selfish, but if I’d stayed on the estate, I could have got caught up in more trouble. I left at 14, when your life is about football, but a few years later it becomes more about girls and drinking and hanging around the streets.

What influence did your grandmother have on you?
Before there was a gang of us, and we were like a bunch of stray dogs, and whenever there was a game, we were there. But when I moved in with me Nan, it was the first time in my life when I had to be in for my tea, and I wasn’t allowed to play football all day. She was a lot more disciplined. I had to tell her where I was going to be at all times.

What’s happened to the lads you left behind on the estate?
A lot of them have gone the other way; up to no good. I sometimes think I could have ended up like that. I know a lot of people who have got into serious trouble and gone to prison, sadly it’s an everyday thing where I’m from. I know lads whose lives spiralled out of control. I see some of them now, and it’s sad, they’re still doing the same things they were doing when they were 16. They don’t have much of a life. When I drive home, it shocks me that you never see kids playing football in the streets, it scares me to think what they’re up to now.

Could any of them have become footballers?
A couple were definitely better than me, one particularly, who is in jail now, for burglary I think. He was on Liverpool’s books as a kid. What a waste.
How would you describe this period of your life?
With everything that had happened, it felt like rock bottom. It was the worst I had ever felt, I was so low. It was a very scary time. For some reason though, I managed to play really good football during it, and that gives you an inner strength.

And at this time Stuart Pearce advised you to seek counselling…
No, it wasn’ t him, everyone thinks that, but it wasn’t. It was City’s chairman at the time, John Wardle, a great man. He’s the reason I stayed at City a season longer than I wanted to. But the truth is if I wasn’t good at my job, they wouldn’t have helped me. I’ve seen young kids get caught up in stupid things, and the club use it as an excuse to release them. City were trying to make out they did me a favour, but if it wasn’t for the money I was worth, they would have sacked me. To be fair to John, he said as much. You don’t want bullshit. The truth might hurt, but it’s only thing that gets you through it.
Why did you leave Manchester City?
I’d been there nine years and thought I was going stale. I wasn’t enjoying training any more. I would get up in the morning and think, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to go in there again.’ I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. There were a lot of committed players there, but not everyone was doing it week in week out. I spoke to [City chief executive] Alistair Mackintosh and he wanted me to see who became the manager, but my mind was made up.

How do you look back at your relationship with Stuart Pearce?
There were a few things I disagreed with him over, but I don’t want to get into a war of words because I have a lot of respect for him. Eventually it went a bit sour, but that doesn’t take away from the person that he is. I wish him all the best, he did a lot for me. I couldn’t sit here and have a go at him. He’s got the England Under-21 job, which suits him, because he is passionate, and he can breed the next batch of England players.

Do you have any regrets at missing being a part of City’s revival?
Everyone says I must be gutted now City are doing well, but I really am not. You don’t spend nine years somewhere and all of a sudden hate them with a passion and want them to fail.
What appealed to you about joining Newcastle? I wanted to work with Sam Allardyce. He’s a good man-manager, he deals with you as a man first and a footballer second. He’s on your side and treats you with respect and like an adult. He knows you know the difference between right and wrong, so he isn’t a school teacher. I’ve come to work with him because he can take me from being on the edge of the England squad to being an England regular.

And yet you’ve said you’re not bothered if you play for England again?
No one is more patriotic than me and I would love to play for England all the time. And if I play to the level I think I’m capable of then they can’t ignore me. You haven’t seen the last of me in an England shirt. I‘ve got a lot to offer, but if that isn’t used I will remain an England international and I have got one cap to cherish. Sometimes I look at it and think ‘How did I get this? A snotty-nosed kid from a council estate in Liverpool…’ It makes me proud to think I won that, and I want some more to put alongside it.

How do you see your future with England?
I want to be part of the squad that goes to Euro 2008. If I can get to the level I know I’m capable of, then there aren’t many midfielders in the country, barring Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Stevie Gerrard, who can compete with me. There will be opportunities, because players get injuries. Look at Gareth, he’s really taken his chance. All I need is a chance as well. I felt that I did more than enough in that 12 minutes against Spain to show I can play international football. I more than held my own against Xavi, Iniesta and Albelda, who play regularly in the Champions League. If I can do that, and they are the so-called best footballers in the world, then I want to do it again and again.

How did you find the experience of being an international player?
The night before the first training session I remember sitting in my hotel room at the Lowry in Manchester and I was so nervous. I was thinking, “Can I handle this? Am I going to get found out?” I was absolutely shitting myself. But I felt I did more in 12 minutes against Spain than some others did in a longer period of time.

How were you welcomed in to the England camp so soon after criticising several players for publishing books after the World Cup?
It was turned into a big deal that I had said something about Frank and Stevie when I’d never actually mentioned them. If anything I was pointing the finger at other people, who are in positions where I’m thinking, ‘How can you talk about football?’ When I joined the camp, Stevie was brilliant with me. I made a point of going up to both of them and explaining exactly what I’d said and, to my face, both of them understood and were different class. Obviously, a couple of weeks later I read an article that said Lampard had gone to Steve McClaren and said something about me, which I doubt very much, because of the professional [Frank] is. But if it was the case, it is quite sad because if he had anything about him as a man, which I think he has, he would have said something to me at the time, and he never did. He told me his opinion, I explained my situation, and we got on fine from there. Looking back, the press wanted to have a go at Lamps, and I gave them a bit of ammunition, and they put words in places where they weren’t.

A year ago you said: “I'm still a million miles from where I want to be as a player and as a person, but I'm trying to improve every day.” How close are you now?
Probably about 999,000 miles away from where I want to be! You always get to a level and want to push on. I want to achieve in life. It’s an exciting time for me, I’m at a new club with a manager I believe can get a lot more out of me. The future’s bright for Joey Barton.

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