It is far too simple to dismiss Joey Barton as a serial headbanger.
It is more complex than simply putting a convenient label on a man, who, let’s face it, has set himself up for it.
Barton – and it must be added, the explosive Mario Balotelli – are systemic of an insidious culture in modern sport which (albeit temporarily) imbues the talented with attributes on or off the field that they can live up to.
The difference is that Barton, a midfielder once good enough to earn an England cap, created his own form of inverted vortex on the field as well as off it.
His solitary international cap came as a 78th minute replacement for Frank Lampard in February 2007 after Barton’s withering blast at England players who had released autobiographies after a less than impressive 2006 Fifa World Cup.
Lampard publicly voiced his disapproval though Steven Gerrard praised Barton for his honesty.
Barton is also a patron of the Tamsin Gulvin Fund, a charity which supports people who have addiction problems and no financial support, and is a part of the “Get Hooked on Fishing” campaign, designed to keep children out of trouble.
But there is also a darker, more explosive side to the man who’s brother Michael was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the racially motivated murder of Anthony Walker in 2005, in what the judge said was a “terrifying ambush” and a “racist attack of a type poisonous to any civilised society”.
But Joey has a record of doing outrageous things.
While at Manchester City in 2004, he was criticised by the City manager Kevin Keegan for causing a mass brawl in a pre-season friendly at Doncaster Rovers and that December, stubbed out a lit cigar into the eye of his young teammate Jamie Tandy during the club’s Christmas party. He was fined and suspended.
Tandy later sued Barton, winning £65 000 in damages. But it would seem that there is no holding Barton back despite the sanctions – and frequent changes from club to club as exasperated managers simply gave up – which have followed him.
He even spent a spell in jail. Simply, for Joey, the rules don’t exist. Betting on football matches is just the latest in a line of transgressions.