The trouble with Joey Barton

Joey Barton has a 12 match ban. Gordon Taylor has recommended Anger Management. I have to agree, yet the Joey of the football field and Joseph Barton of Twitter show very different aspects of the same man. He is Joey – violent and uncontrolled both on and off the football field and Joseph – an intelligent, complex and funny man with many different aspects to his personality.

As I watched the TV… coverage last week I witnessed Joey – a man in his history. As I read Twitter I encountered Joseph – a man in conflict between who he has been and who he wishes to be. The first thing that tickled me was his humour in conversation with Piers Morgan, when he said to PM “ah my old nemesis. How I have missed your cynicism”. I giggled. These words, summed up Piers Morgan and could have come from the comic genius of Paul Merton. I laughed and was moved when he described the joys of fatherhood and how the “thickest of our 2 dogs mistook that lickle squirrel” for violent, masked intruders at 5.38am!

I could not stop reading and as I read more a real person began to emerge from the 140 character bites. Someone three dimensional, someone I started to feel for, to like even. A man of thoughtfulness, wit and contradiction who in one breath considers bringing back public executions then, on the way to the Lucien Freud exhibition muses “an interesting character this fellow”.

This fellow is Joseph Barton. He tweets Nietzche. I know little about Nietzche but understand that underlying his most famous aphorism ‘God is dead’ is the belief that nothing has any inherent importance and that life lacks purpose. I wonder if this is what is troubling Joey so much that he can allow himself to keep treading that same old path, with the same old behaviours. It seems a shame and I imagine it must be a struggle for he seems so self-aware. In writing this I am reminded of how all of us struggle with contradiction, the different parts of who we are. This is a journey and his Twitter headline sums it up neatly “All know the way. Few actually walk it”.

Joey claims that against Man City this week “the head was never gone at any stage”. Yet, I imagine Joseph might want to teach his own child these lines from the Kipling poem he tweeted recently: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you … Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

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