Joey Barton. Did Sean Dyche and Burnley Football Club tame the enigma?
A hypothetical question perhaps, but can Joey Barton truly be regarded as a Claret Legend? After all, he only spent one full year at Turf Moor and ostensibly left Burnley for greater things in Glasgow, only to find the grass or heather wasn’t as green in Scotland as he first thought.
Following a monumentally bad move, Barton can consider himself very fortunate Sean Dyche’s Burnley were willing to take him back into the Clarets’ fold. Barton was allowed to play in the English Premier League once again.
That was until the English Football Association finally ridded them of "Bad Boy Barton" once and for all. Barton admitted committing “betting offences” which contravened the rather ridiculous, hypocritical and outdated FA Code.
I will leave the question of Barton being a footballing enigma wrapped inside a conundrum hanging for now. Let us consider some of the adjectives and nouns that have been applied to him.
Barton has been described by the media and social observers as an enigma and a man comprised of many different persona: a violent man, a convicted criminal, a prisoner, a philosopher, a hot head, and by no means is the list of adjectives applied to Barton yet exhausted.
Yet at Burnley, playing under the rigidly disciplined management style of Sean Dyche, Barton was calmness personified. During his spell at Turf Moor, Joey was the team leader, to some perhaps still an opinionated loud mouth, an avid tweeter, a serious writer, the veteran ex-England international, the present "Burnley Player of the Year", a father, raconteur and horse owner.
Barton divides opinion, quite unlike anyone else in the modern game. He was to most Clarets fans a player to hate whenever he played against them. Barton carries a reputation as a dirty player but during his last visit as an opposing player with QPR in the 2013/14 season, the Clarets saw a different side to him.
He went to take a throw in and someone in the crowd threw a full coke bottle at him hitting him smack bang on the head. He could have acted it up, thrown "an Aguero" and got the Clarets into trouble with the FA, but somewhat surprisingly he made light of it and carried on as if nothing had happened.
As a consequence, some good natured banter ensued with Clarets fans on Twitter, which led the cheeky Scouser to claim, "At least he didn’t have to live in Burnley!"
Memo to Joey; it’s usually better to retain control of the send button and not tempt the fates?
Not long after his visit to Turf Moor as a player with QPR, he accumulated two yellow cards and then the ninth red of his career in 2015.
These events led Joey holding to a promise he made to undergo anger management therapy. Perhaps not surprisingly, QPR decided they had had enough of his antics and released him during that summer.
He was due to sign for West Ham United but some high handed Irons' fans made protests and the Hammers management chickened out and called the move off.
A month after the season started and completely out of the blue, Barton signed a one year contract for Burnley, who had been demoted from the Premier League, found them back in the Championship.
It is widely acknowledged Barton came to Burnley largely due to the efforts of the Clarets' Sporting Director Frank McParland, a personal friend of Joey Barton and a person who shares Liverpool as a birthplace and footballing heritage.
It soon became evident Sean Dyche respected the player and his views and Joey was equally impressed with the gravelly voiced hard man. And so the love-in began.
The swiftness and surprise of the move did not allow Burnley fans the time to object even if they wished, and some were even pleased to get a big name on board.
Joey soon reassured the Clarets following as he showed calm and controlled leadership with no hint of retaliation, when he was often targeted and singled out for the rough stuff by the opposition.
Burnley didn’t start too well in their efforts to bounce back to the top flight and a bad 3-0 loss to Hull City on Boxing Day led to a major post match inquest.
It is well documented Joey contributed his thoughts, as did others and whatever happened was the start of a run of 23 games undefeated with Joey at the heart of much of it.
As previously mentioned, Joey finished the Clarets’ Championship winning season as the club's "Player of the Year" and became the fans' favourite as the famous old club swept all before them and regained their place in the English Premier League.
A subsequent £100,000,000 financial windfall also dropped their way. It is not beyond the imagination that without the talismanic midfielder, Burnley might well have fallen short of grabbing the golden egg that membership of the English Premier League provides.
Joey played in 38 of the 46 league games in the successful campaign, scoring 3 goals, including the winner at Preston and also appeared for the Clarets in two cup games.
He got nowhere near to add to his red card tally and Burnley finished the season not far from winning the Fair Play Award.
Burnley fans thoroughly expected Joey to stay and try and help the Clarets maintain their place in the English Premier League but midsummer contract negotiations dragged on interminably.
Suddenly photographs emerged of Barton playing golf in Glasgow and meeting the management team of Glasgow Rangers. The Gers had just returned to the Scottish Premier League and had Mark Warburton at the helm as manager, who was largely responsible for getting the Glaswegian Blues back there.
Warburton was also a friend and former colleague of Frank McParland at Brentford and McParland soon departed East Lancashire to join Warburton in Glasgow. The consequence was to open up direct channels of communication to Joey Barton.
Burnley are reported to have offered Barton £30K a week on a one year contract when he wanted two; Rangers offered him 2 years but on a reduced salary of £20K a week.
Barton elected to join Rangers, saying he had had enough of struggling to play with teams trying to stay in the EPL and wanted to end his career winning trophies with a big club.
He had written a book entitled "No Nonsense" and to aid sales he was soon promoting the book. His off field antics in Glasgow were soon grabbing the tabloid headlines
Barton on his arrival in Scotland, almost immediately started to antagonise both Celtic and Rangers fans by saying he would be the best player in Scotland.
Inflammatory and derogatory comments about the Celtic manager Brendan Rogers and team captain, Scott Brown did little to endear him to the notoriously xenophobic and passionate Glasgow footballing fans.
Almost by coincidence, Burnley went to play their second consecutive pre-season friendly at Ibrox with the Rangers, not long after the Barton transfer dust had finally settled.
A scintillating Andre Gray hat trick quickly demonstrated the gulf between the two teams when in the previous year’s meeting; Rangers had perhaps looked the better side.
Things quickly spiralled into a fast downward decline as Rangers struggled in early season and suffered a humiliating 5-1 drubbing at the hands of arch rivals Glasgow Celtic. It would be fair to say Brown quickly showed Barton who was the boss in Glaswegian footballing circles!
Joey must have thought his critical post-match comments were wanted, but he managed to offend his manager and several key players getting him suspended by the Ibrox based club.
To further add to his troubles, Barton was quickly suspended by the Scottish Premier League for betting on 51 football games during his brief time in Scotland.
Rangers tried to sack him, but unable to do so, eventually decided to let him go. Joey departed Ibrox with agreed pay- off but on the stipulation he was unable to play for anyone else until January.
The Barton fall-out also claimed the scalps of Warburton and McParland and they quickly followed Barton through the Ibrox door marked "Exit" as the Gers struggled to stay in second spot in the SPL.
Sean Dyche came to Joey’s rescue, offering to let him train with the club and subsequently offered him a contract.
Before he could even resume playing the English FA announced they were investigating allegations of Barton making more than 1200 football bets over 12 years.
It looked for the entire world Barton wouldn’t get to play at all for the Clarets again as he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him by the FA.
However, his request for a personal hearing and several adjournments meant that the whole sorry saga dragged on until the end of April.
Surprisingly, he managed to play 14 games in the EPL and four cup games in that time for the Clarets, even managing to score the winner against Southampton.
He was man of the match a few times but also made a few errors leading to goal scoring opportunities for the opposition and in fact Burnley only won two of the Premier League games he played in.
Finally, last week he was hit with an eighteen month ban, another humungous £30K fine and a warning about his future conduct.
Burnley will pay the rest of his contract at a reduced rate and he will lodge an appeal against the sentence, but it looks like his time as a Premier League player may well be over.
Joey being Joey however, has recently said he will decide when he hangs up his boots not the English Football Association. Could we seriously expect anything less?
Barton’s career started at Manchester City in 2002 and he played 153 times for the Blues, scoring 17 goals over five seasons before eventually moving to Newcastle United.
Barton played 84 games for the Toon, bagging 8 goals spanning another 5 season’s; one of these campaigns conducted in the Championship.
He went on to join Queens Park Rangers in 2011, playing 31 games in his first season and none in the second when the Hoops were relegated, missing Barton’s influence and leadership.
He had been loaned out to Marseille and played 33 games in the French top flight. He subsequently moved back to Loftus Road playing another 39 games in the Championship and a further 28 in the Premier League in 2014-15.
The purpose of highlighting these appearances is to prove that whatever people think of an apparently flawed character, the lad from Liverpool can certainly play football!
Barton’s appearances for Burnley eventually totalled 58 out of his career total of 435 played over 17 seasons. Never once did he court controversy either on or off the pitch during his time at Turf Moor.
He would have played at least one more career game but famously Barton lost his shirt after leaving it on the substitute’s bench at Manchester City at half time, in what would have been his first game.
It is impossible to calculate how many more career games Barton would have managed if FA sanctions and suspensions and the time he spent at Her Majesty’s pleasure had not taken their toll?
The “Bad Joey Barton” so prevalent in Manchester, infamously stubbed out a cigar in a youth players eye after the youngster had tried to set fire to Barton’s shirt tails in an ill-fated Christmas spirited high jinks episode,
Barton’s next adventure was to physically assault an Everton fan in Thailand. He then went on to expose his backside to Everton fans and was subsequently fined the princely sum of £2000 by the FA just for mooning.
Courting controversy even further he publicly criticised City’s inept performances which resulted in Barton being banned from talking to the soccer media at all by his parent club.
Just to put the tin lid on his City career, he seriously assaulted his team mate Ousmane Dabo leaving him with a detached retina during a training ground fracas in 2007.
For this criminal assault Barton received a four month suspended prison sentence, 200 hours of community service and he was ordered to pay Dabo £3000 compensation.
Just to get in on the act, the English FA jumped on board the punitive bandwagon and hit Barton with yet another substantial fine of £25000 and also awarded the player another six match ban.
Barton’s one solitary full England international cap came in 2007, when he replaced Frank Lampard in the 78th minute of a friendly international at Old Trafford against Spain which the English lost 1-0.
This came just after Joey had criticised the England players who had released their somewhat cringe worthy autobiographies after failing less than magnificently in the 2006 World Cup.
One of the players to receive the Barton tongue lash was none other than the Chelsea midfield maestro, Frank Lampard. Until he arrived at Turf Moor, Joey Barton was never one to be regarded as the master of cultivating dressing room harmony!
He joined Newcastle for the 2007-8 season but was soon sentenced to six months imprisonment for yet another serious assault. This offence came to light came after Barton was seen punching his victim multiple times, following a booze fuelled night out.
Barton was by this time living under the threat of a suspended sentence and he was immediately remanded to prison. Joey acknowledged he was an alcoholic and it is widely believed he received treatment for his addiction to alcohol.
These are sides of Barton’s character that were never witnessed during his time at Turf Moor, seemingly controlled under the watchful auspices of Sean Dyche.
It is difficult to imagine a Barton/Dyche scenario, similar to the running spat that went on between Barton and the stand-in Newcastle United and ex-England legend Alan Shearer.
A spate of name calling ensued, there was open animosity between player and manager and another six game ban for Barton who was then suspended by Alan Shearer who said Barton “was shit.”
Joey immediately got on the offensive and informed us all that Shearer was “a shit manager with shit tactics!”
Somehow Barton stayed with the Toon. Shearer soon departed and Joey’s own time on Tyneside came to an end when he punched Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest, earning himself yet another three match ban.
Barton was given a free transfer and it is reported he was due to join Wenger’s Arsenal but following altercations with two of the Gunners players, the proposed move was aborted and off Barton went to join QPR.
Further Barton bad behaviour followed. He head butted a Norwich player, receiving another red card and then went into complete meltdown against one of his former clubs.
The cauldron was boiling when it came to the last match of the season a game Queens Park Rangers had to at least draw to stay up.
Barton’s season ended by elbowing Carlos Tevez in the face and then after receiving the obligatory red card, kicked Aguero on the back of the knee and then attempted to head butt Vincent Kompany as he departed the field of play!
Joey’s bad boy image appeared to know no ends and the fiasco at City demonstrated a total lack of discipline that was never witnessed at any time during his time with Burnley.
Joey Barton cannot possibly be described as a man who does things by halves! For the end of season on field shenanigans, he received another twelve game ban and a £75000 fine for his latest indiscretion.
Off he went to Marseille and largely behaved impeccably in France, other than calling a PSG opponent an overweight Lady Boy.
So the question remains what happened at Burnley or didn’t happen? Sean Dyche and Barton undoubtedly had a mutual respect and the Burnley gaffer is on record as saying that that he admired him.
Second guessing suggests Barton realised it was time to mature and behave accordingly or alternatively his Burnley contract contained “Good Behaviour” clauses?
It is widely acknowledged that Barton hopes one day to manage or coach at the highest level and conjecture suggests that Sean Dyche was encouraging him to do just that.
It is beyond doubt Barton had a great rapport with his Burnley team mates and it is widely recognised he helped to develop some of the younger players as the promotion surge of 2016 gathered momentum.
Even then the footballing fates continued to conspire against him. Typically Joey was one of two Burnley players not to receive a Championship medal at the obligatory promotion celebratory Civic Reception at Burnley Town Hall again which yet again commanded the headlines.
A senior official miscalculated the number of medals required, but he still found the time to get involved with community aspects of the club, latterly visiting hospice patients and chatting to them.
There is little doubt Joey Barton took to the club and the town after all and the feeling is reciprocated. Joey Barton it is fair to say quickly adorned the badge of “Cult Hero” amongst the fans of Burnley Football Club.
To fully understand the enigma that is Joey Barton, there is a need to know more of his upbringing and family background.
Barton was born and brought up in the Huyton district of Liverpool, at a time when heavy drinking, betting and violence was common amongst the working class on the Merseyside hinterland.
Barton’s father was a part time footballer and his parents separated when he was just fourteen years old, but the bright young Scouser still managed to acquire 10 GSEs.
Joey Barton is without doubt an intelligent man and can express his views in an extremely coherent fashion. Three million Barton twitter followers can testify to that!
When his brother Michael murdered a young man, Joey publicly plead with his sibling to give himself up to the authorities.
Barton demonstrated at Burnley just what a good footballer he is. Joey can certainly carry and hold the ball, he possesses a good range of passing skills and is a better than decent tackler. His drive and determination coupled to his ability to organise and lead a team certainly helped Burnley dominate the Championship.
One can only wonder what would have transpired if Joey had taken the extra one year contract offered at Turf Moor, instead of debunking for Glasgow rangers?
Would his addictive betting problem have come to light? Would Burnley have deemed it necessary to buy the supremely incongruent Steven Defour? Would Mark Warburton still be in the manager’s chair at Ibrox?
Can Joey Barton be deemed to be a Claret legend? Not in my book! He simply has not been around Turf Moor long enough.
It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Joey Barton has certainly had a major impact on Burnley Football Club and by all accounts the town and people of Burnley have had a major impact on him.
Barton has lodged an appeal against the severity of his ban for betting by the English Football Association. Maybe he will succeed with his appeal and get in some more game time under the watchful eye of his mentor and confident Sean Dyche?
In the meantime Burnley will miss him. The FA will surely miss their favourite “Cash Cow” income from the fines he was handed down.
The global media and soccer orientated newspapers will miss the many headlines and stories he generated both on and off the field of play and via his tweets and social media accounts.
There may even be further appearances on “Question Time”? Joey even named his son Cassius in honour of the controversial boxing legend but somehow I suspect we haven’t heard the last of Joey Barton.
Joey Barton is the footballing Scouser the Burnley fans hated but grew to love and appreciate.
“No Nonsense” has been nominated for Book of the Year in two categories and I wonder if it may have a Glasgow Rangers and Burnley flavoured sequel?
It would certainly be tempting fate to think the Barton story ends here.
This history and appraisal of Joey Barton and his career at Burnley Football Club was written and conceived by Scotland based Burnley fan and regular contributor to Clarets Mad, "Old Colner". (TEC).