All Stand Up for Joey Barton

Joey Barton’s recent appearance on BBC’s Question Time has drawn much comment, particularly in the wake of his controversial comments early on in the show. But fair’s fair, who hasn’t spouted dreadfully sexist metaphors when asked about European election results? I was once asked what I thought about France’s Marine Le Penn and the only thing I could think of to say was [comment removed by editor]. I’m not proud of it but there you go. I think you’ll agree it firmly knocks Barton’s comments into a cocked hat.

Barton on QT

Aside from all this there’s no doubt Barton’s a hated figure in the world of football. His misdemeanours, both on and off the pitch, have been well documented elsewhere. He’s been punished appropriately but for many he’s a character beyond redemption, too extreme, too down right nasty to be given any more chances. His attempts at showing a more cerebral side to his make up are often met with scorn. Much of that is due to a certain naivety he sometimes displays (for example, was it really wise for a Premiership footballer to have a go at politicians for not being in touch with normal people?). And clearly, a keen intelligence can be let down by a lack of education, but are these things to hold so vehemently against him?


His fondness for quoting Neitzsche and The Smiths front man Morrisey smack of an angsty teenager and amuses many. But this exposes a truth about professional sports stars, and perhaps footballers in particular, who live in such a cloistered protected world where independent thought is not a requirement. The moment you sign professional forms for a club you park your free thinking brain. Subsequently many players never get beyond emotional adolescence. They’re like kids in adult bodies. That Barton is at least attempting to cultivate his soul is to his credit.

He’s doing it with some success too. Much as he’s generally despised the guy can point to over two and a half million Twitter followers. Surely we should be celebrating the fact that we have a footballer who successfully manages to engage in public debate on all sorts of non-football issues.

Well, it seems not. For many people (presumably not those who follow his tweets) the die is cast. He’s damned if he speaks out and damned if he doesn’t and it surprises no one to read that his appearance on Question Time has seen the BBC accused of turning the show into ‘a joke’.

One thing seems certain though. Joey Barton’s not going to shut up any time soon. It’s possible to see a future career path in the media for him though I don’t quite see him filling Jeremy Paxman’s shoes any time soon. For the time being he remains more Johnny Marr than Andrew Marr but who knows? Let’s hope that if he does move into full time social commentary the inevitable smoothing off of his rough edges over time doesn’t dull the brashness that makes him so anomalously interesting.

Describing UKIP as being like the ugliest woman in a group of four not very good looking ladies was insensitive of course but, unless you’re a UKIP supporter, we can all applaud the wider sentiments. If you still don’t get the point he wasn’t trying to be sexist but was merely expressing a low opinion of Britain’s political parties, an opinion clearly held by the electorate who stayed away from the polls en masse. The fake moral outrage the UKIP representative effected at Barton’s comments were as transparent as her discomfort at being well and truly sussed. God knows we need people who make politicians feel uncomfortable so in the spirit of the moment, and for the first time in my life, I’ll stand up for Joey Barton.


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