And think, I really liked Joey Barton before Saturday’s match. I thought he just got a bad rap.
I was wrong.
For those of us that watched the Newcastle vs. Arsenal game on Saturday, the real show came not from the play. but from the antics of Newcastle’s Barton.
Barton, a 29 year-old midfielder, who recently did a 3-month stint for getting into a bar fight where him and his brother beat a kid unconscious, who berated his own clubs’ officials on Twitter all summer for selling a host of the squad’s best players and was subsequently put on the market by the angry owner as a free transfer, and is basically known as the Premier League version of the NFL’s “Pacman Jones”, almost made it a whole game without losing his mind and getting into a fight. Almost.
Instead, he turned a bland 0-0 draw into an MMA spectacle in the 75th minute, in which both clubs were sanctioned by the league on Monday.
With the game scoreless in the second half, Arsenal’s Gervinho, the club’s lone big-name signing of the summer, fell under a challenge in the penalty box. Barton, who was a few feet behind the play, stopped playing despite the no-call and furiously confronted the Ivory Coast international about the alleged offense. With the striker just picking himself up off the ground, Barton ran over and dragged him up by the shirt the way a bookie’s muscle might persuade someone to pay their debts. Gervinho managed to get away, but not before players from both teams started mingling. Still miffed, and probably a bit surprised Barton had picked him up, an offense I’ve honestly never seen on a soccer pitch before, Gervinho went back for more and slapped Barton in the face as he was being restrained.
Here’s where it gets good.
Barton, who moments earlier had started the brawl with his furious outburst over Gervinho’s dive, fell over as if he’d been knocked out by Mike Tyson. The man who has unabashedly admitted he loves to fight in, around, or outside any bar in England, was floored by a slap that wouldn’t have knocked over my 80 year-old grandmother.
After the match, in which Gervinho received a red card and three-match ban, while Barton got only a stern lecture from the match referee and a yellow-card, Barton admitted he may have gone down a bit too easily…
“I did go down easily but it is not okay to hit me because it’s me,” Barton told Radio 5 Live. “I have been hit harder at school. It does not make what he did right or wrong but he raised his hand and the rules are you can’t do that. I have made a meal of it but I knew Song had stamped on me and I was slightly aggrieved by that because I am aware the spotlight is on me at certain times, because of my stupidity in the past and people don’t condone me easily.
Simple solution for a guy who I had been convinced before the game had a bad rap? Learn to play one match without completely turning stupid Jersey Shore moron a$@% and maybe the whole soccer world won’t despise you and your creepy comb-over haircut.
Oh, and what did Arsenal manager Arsene Wegner do after the match? Just hint that perhaps his side could use the human battering ram instead of fighting it all the time… That would be an ironic and amusing end to the story… Joey Barton on Arsenal. Hey, after the loss of Captain Cesc to Barcelona, who knows what Wegner will do.