When a 28 year old English footballer is playing out his skin, often carrying his team’s offensive attributes in the absence of three of their key players (Carroll, Tiote and Ben Arfa) and delivering crosses David Beckham would be proud of, all while playing OUT OF POSITION, then it would seem a no-brainer to include him in the next England squad. But when that player’s name is Joey Barton, it seems somewhat unlikely.
Colin Young asked the same question in the Daily Mail yesterday, and also quite rightly suggested how his absence after a three match ban ultimately cost Chris Hughton his job.
Indeed, it was this suspension for an unprovoked punch which filled the tabloids for days to come. Plenty of off-ball incidents go on in matches at the highest levels of the game, many are equally as cowardly and unnecessary. Yet, once again, when the name of the aggressor is Joey Barton, then a whole new rule book comes out.
If Capello picks him it will be based on the fact he has, quite frankly, been probably the best English midfielder in the Premier League this season. That he has played at right midfield, despite being naturally a centre midfielder, shows great discipline, something which has typified what has been his best ever season as well as his new character.
The Premier League’s response to the return of the pantomine villain was evident from the third game in, as Wolves absolutely battered him in a series of off-the-ball incidents equally as cowardly as Barton’s own Gamst Pederson incident. Yet the difference here was that Karl Henry, the main culprit who would later perform a disgusting challenge on Jordi Gomez which sent the victim somersaulting through the air, escaped without punishment until minutes before the end when the worst had been done.
However, throughout all this sheer injustice, Barton remained calm and refused to bite back to Mick McCarthy’s utterly transparent gameplan to wind him up through battery until he gets himself sent off. Unfortunately for him, and no doubt the national media who were just waiting for their favourite villain to snap, Barton didn’t cave in to these antics and we could all detect his changed nature.
Of course, let’s get one thing straight: Barton has sinned. But he has also paid the right price for his mistakes. He has been in prision, picked up suspensions and paid even more for the fact he is a professional footballer. Every ground he goes to has an anti-Barton chant ready, the referees feel it is their duty to give him a yellow card for any challenge he makes, the authorities have that three match suspension stamp ready in their grasp and, of course, there’s always the media.
In other words, Joey Barton has done the time. And more. In a society which supposedly encourages reform, surely this man could be used as a figure to uphold as an inspirational figure to all those who feel there is no way back after they have hit the depths. And what better way to do this than to reward a reformed character whose form deserves international recognition than with an England cap? Furthermore, let’s not forget that the current squad are hardly perfect citizens themselves, are they. Yes, their crimes may not be as horrendous as those committed by Barton, but surely he should be allowed another crack at life like they were?
Or is it too much to ask because his name is Joey Barton?
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