Christopher Chang: The curious case of Joey Barton


The Premier League is a quiet place without that divisive Scouser Joey Barton. Queens Park Rangers limped to a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday without their suspended captain and, for a week, even his colourful twitter feed ground to a halt.

But don't worry - he's back for QPR and has ended a self-imposed tweeting ban.

Since 2004, when he picked up his first red card, Barton has filled British newspaper columns with thuggish behaviour and magnetism to controversy. There was that time he stubbed a lit cigar into the eye of Manchester City teammate Jamie Tandy at a club Christmas shindig. And the training-ground assault of Ousmane Dabo in 2007 which left his colleague in need of hospital treatment. Not to mention jail time for an attack in Liverpool and on-the-field madness towards Dickson Etuhu and Morten Gamst Pederson.

With such extensive YouTube footage of Barton's misdemeanours, it is no surprise that he is now making such a splash with another form of social media. Now he is painting himself as a Renaissance man, bypassing the media and typing out his own pearls of wisdom in 140-character chunks. @Joey7Barton has over one million followers and counting. Rio Ferdinand might rate himself as the King of the Twits, and Wayne Rooney may keep us updated with hair transplant visuals, but Barton is a more entertaining alternative.

Barton, it seems, has an opinion on everything.

And he wants you to know about it. Whether he is espousing the virtues of Noam Chomsky, discussing morality, or even putting the boot into Paris Hilton - "It baffles me that people can become idolised without having a semblance of talent or any moral fortitude" - the Liverpudlian does not shy away from expressing himself. Which should come as no surprise, considering his football history.

He has been a strong presence in the QPR side this season. Putting aside his antics with Arsenal's Gervinho and against Norwich, and the fact that he argued footballers should be able to sue referees who make bad decisions, he has thrived on the responsibility of being club captain. Barton appreciated Neil Warnock's simplistic, honest approach to management.

Whether that bond can be transferred to the new man in charge, Mark Hughes, remains to be seen. Hughes arrived at QPR last week and immediately put paid to any suggestions that the club would be ditching its captain before the transfer window slams shut at the end of January.

However you view Joseph Barton, Hughes needs him on board if 18th-placed QPR are to avoid relegation this year. Big personalities are needed in the bottom-of-the-league dog fight and Barton fits the bill. He has undoubted talent, but dubious temperament. Keeping his team up will be Hughes' second biggest challenge. The biggest? Managing the midfield wild child.

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