Originally published on my personal blog on August 5th 2011.
It’s fair to say that the comments of one Joseph Barton have created quite a stir in the last few weeks, prompting many to question whether footballers should be allowed to have personal Twitter accounts.
There are a few clubs who have already banned their players from using the social networking site and it is thought that club managers, PR managers and maybe even agents will become so fed up with ‘tweeting’ that, before too long, footballers will be banished from Twitter forever.
The thinking is simple: a footballer might not think before he posts something on the site and this could lead to big problems for the club, for fear of ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ or , at the very least, tongues wagging for the wrong reasons. So, ban them from it completely.
Joey Barton has been portrayed as one of the success stories of footballers joining Twitter – many admit that their opinions of the midfielder have changed since he started talking about classic rock music, quoting George Orwell and asking followers to name hissickeningly-adorable new puppy.
There are still a few who cannot forgive Barton for some of the things he has done in the past (and possibly rightly so), and there are some who are beginning to find themselves ‘bored with Barton’ – he’s playing up to the image a little now, exploiting the fact that he’s got people on his side.
They always say that honesty is the best policy but, in this context, that’s debateable. It’s great to see a player speak out about something that he doesn’t like, especially when fans of Newcastle are very unhappy – to say the least – with how the club is being run, so to have an ‘inside voice’ for once is rather interesting.
And let’s be fair – Barton’s tweets (particularly in the last couple of weeks) have been much more interesting than the frankly mundane Michael Owen, the brand-expanding Rio Ferdinand and the painfully-ignorant-to-his-own-shortcomings Robbie Savage. I’d rather have a player speak his own mind, providing interesting information about himself and his club rather than some PR-pedalled, image-enhancing bullshit.
But then, I’m not a Newcastle fan, nor am I a shareholder in the club and I’m certainly not Mike Ashley. Barton has put himself in an incredibly difficult position: yes, he’s honest and he clearly cares about the club, and that should be applauded; but it’s hardly surprising that a) some fans take exception to their club being dragged through the mud time and time again, and b) those at the top of the Toon hierarchy are unhappy with the comments and are focusing on the criticism rather than the reasons for the criticism.
The fact is, if there weren’t problems at Newcastle, Barton wouldn’t have anything to complain about. It’s all well and good saying that Barton is disrespecting the club, disrespecting the owners etc., but they really are focusing on the wrong issue. As far as I’m concerned, Barton is bringing the fans’ concerns to the fore; why should he just sit there and watch as his club gets pissed about with by people the fans clearly aren’t happy with?
In the long run, fans will probably be grateful to Barton for at least standing up to Ashley and co., and speaking out – something that happens far too little in this sport resulting little change occurring (when a lot of changes clearly need to be made).
Barton’s future in Geordieland now looks incredibly uncertain with some reports suggesting that he has a whole host of top clubs after his signature, while others say that he might just stay at Newcastle.
The midfielder has been in brilliant form for the last two seasons – he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the Premier League last season – so it will be interesting to see where Barton plys his trade this term. While fans and journalists all across the country might commend Barton’s honesty, clubs might not see it that way.
Despite being available on a free transfer many top sides will wonder whether it is really worth bringing a ‘disrupting’ influence (according to some) into the team, mainly because of relations within the team and throughout the club but also from the PR perspective mentioned earlier.
No one knows for sure what is going through Barton’s head; is he really looking out for the club and the fans, or is he personally fed up with the ownership of the club. Both of those would be acceptable stances to take. Or, maybe he’s just trying to engineer a move in a weird and wonderful way.
Either way, let’s be honest – it’s much more interesting than hearing about the never-ending narrative of Cesc Fabregas’ pilgrimage to Camp Nou.