"He has to be part of the project, respect the team rules and work in the greater interest of the team. He must comply with these standards. His career indicates that he knows that already. And a player of character is often necessary."
The player of character he is talking about is Joey — now Joe — Barton. Signed on a season-long loan from Queen's Park Rangers, Joe — previously Joseph — was in the south of France to dot the I's and cross the T's on a move he said couldn't come quick enough. "Vive Marseille" he tweeted. No problem with the language there then.
And his new boss seems to be under the impression that he is signing a player who has learned by experience to abide by the rules. Who understands the need to put the team before himself. Who is prepared to work, work and work again to further the collective cause.
Maybe Baup should have signed up to Twitter for an insight into his new man's thinking before completing the deal. Certainly there was little in his latest dispatches to suggest recent experience has altered Barton's world view. His analysis of his move was couched in the tone of victimhood familiar to anyone who has followed what he laughably describes as his career. Poor Joey/Joseph/Joe had given his all to QPR, subsumed his ego into the fabric of the place, worked his fingers to the bone for them. He was skipper and did nothing but rally behind the cause. He had done all that could be expected of a professional and more. And what did Mark Hughes, the unthinking, uncaring boss at the hoops go and do? Strip him of the captaincy and consign him to train with the stiffs and other assorted "Taliban", whatever that means. He had been ostracised for no legitimate reason. A transfer out of west London was now the only way out.
This, sighed The Guardian's favourite intellectual, the man who Newsnight turns to when it needs comment on matters of daily life, is typical of the modern game: it spits out those who dedicate themselves to it without due care or attention.
Which might well be true in some cases. But what the most put-upon pro in the game, the man who — like Prince — really ought to get the word "slave" tattooed on his forehead given how frequently his decency is compromised by those who employ him, prefers to forget his own part in his ostracisation. Joseppe neglects to remind us quite why it was that Hughes preferred him to take his professionalism elsewhere. Something to do with his performance in the critical final game of last season, when he demonstrated quite how much he had learned about the need to comply with the rules of the game by going bonkers and needlessly kicking one opponent and head-butting another. An act he followed up by exercising his shrewd understanding of tactics by escalating his violence in an attempt to "take some of them with me".
Indeed, what English football might well be thinking as the professional who picked up a 12-match ban for his latest indiscretion heads across the Channel is this: good riddance. Certainly those in control at Loftus Road will be relieved to have him and his absurd wages — which, in a manner which runs somewhat contrary to his views of slavery, continued to be paid even as he absented himself from productive employment — off the manor.
And off the manor he is. As Joe Cole would no doubt inform him, French league football is not a great place to go to remain in the hearts and minds of those involved in the English game. It might be regarded as symptomatic of our utter self-absorption, but Cole was barely noticed in his season for Lille. It was in many ways a 12-month exile he underwent.
A period off the radar might be precisely what Barton needs to remind himself of all the things he ought, by now, to have learned. The trouble is, given his previous, even as he heads down to the Mediterranean, you suspect that Joey/Joseph/Joe will find a way to remind us all that he is very much still around.
- Sports & Recreation