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Provocateur, brawler, executioner, martyr: Joey Barton

There are many Joey Barton. There is the provocateur, who does not care to show his ass to the rival fans at Goodison Park as well as to sing the forty to his coach or to the England internationals. There is the brawler, the one who fists with a stranger after a night of drunkenness (six months in jail, of which he served 74 days, for a brutal beating of a man in Liverpool in December 2007). There is also the executioner Barton, who has been sent off nine times and takes justice into his own hands both with the rival players and with his own (four months in jail – suspended – and six games of sanction for leaving his teammate Ousmane unconscious Dabo in a training session, also in 2007).

But there is another Joey Barton, more like a martyr than an executioner: the one persecuted by the establishment to make him purge his sins more harshly than anyone else, the one who asks for help to overcome his addictions and his fits of anger, the one who has the clairvoyance to deny his own brother money when he flees after a horrible racist murder and convinces him to return to the country and turn himself in (Michael Barton got 17 years in prison), the who decides to study philosophy and is fond of art and boasts of it despite the mockery of others, the one who becomes an oracle on Twitter (2.9 million followers), the one who shows his face to denounce homophobia in football or defends the separation of State and Church in a country in which the monarch remains Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

The problem is that these Joey Bartons do not follow one another in an evolutionary order: they intersect and overlap each other. Redemption is followed by a new attack of anger, after philosophy and art, punches and violence return. At 39, and now retired as a player, Barton was acquitted last Monday of the accusation of pushing and breaking the face of a rival coach in April 2019, when he was coaching third-division Fleetwood Town. But next Thursday the open case against him begins after his wife accused him of assault last June. She called the police. He denies there was any assault. There is no pause in Joey Barton's life.

Barton has spoken often of the environment in which he grew up, in Huyton, not far from Liverpool. His parents separated when he was 14 years old and he went to live with his grandmother – “If I had listened to people, I would be working on a construction site. My grandmother taught me to believe in myself ”- and with her father, who taught her a very specific fighting technique -“ it was her world, a world in which you need very different things than if you are in Eton and you are going to be a deputy ”-. He has talked about starting to drink to overcome the clash between his life in the neighborhood and that of a rich and famous young footballer – “I never liked the taste of alcohol. But I liked being drunk ”-.

Joey Barton trains Bristol Rovers (fourth division) today after a respectable career as a player (386 games between City, Newcastle, QPR, Marseille, Burnley and Rangers; and a few minutes of International with England) but weighed down by his own mistakes and by the rigor with which he is usually judged. The penalty for gambling, in 2017, killed what was left of his footballer. “I don't know how you achieve a balance in these things in football. Legendary Eric Cantona only received a nine-month suspension for assaulting a fan, so 18 months seems like a long time to me. There is no intention here other than your personal bets, there is no attempt to alter matches or fix results ”, defended Sean Dyche, the highly respected coach of Burnley.

In the end, who will win Barton's fight against Barton?

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