JOEY Barton tends to give two types of interview; one in which he admits to having made mistakes, the other in which he makes those mistakes.
His appearance on BBC One’s Inside Sport programme last night fell largely into the first category, although there were one or two moments from the latter category too.
Most of the pre-publicity surrounded his assertion that he was not worried about going to prison if he is found guilty of assault in a court case due to take place next year. There was a little bit more to the interview than that, though.
Anyone who sat through the whole interview would have seen a man caught up in an endless cycle of anger and repentance that seems to spin faster with every public misdemeanour.
Barton continues to put his hand in the fire, and continues to be amazed when he gets burned. He didn’t need to call Newcastle’s fans “vicious” at the weekend, just as he didn’t need to claim that his former club Manchester City’s bubble was about to burst in late October.
That’s Joey. He always says what he thinks. But sometimes, he hasn’t quite figured out the answers, and this leads him to contradict himself.
For instance, he claimed that the media and the football authorities are quick to jump on him when he steps out of line. But he also conceded that it was his fault that he had such a reputation.
Barton’s drive and incredible self-belief are high among the reasons he has made it as a professional footballer, but there was one point in the interview where he strayed into full-blown narcissism.
“When I was younger, I remember looking at people and thinking: ‘They’re not the same as me,'” he said. “I almost felt I had a higher calling. I thought it was football. The more I play, the more I think that it’s not football.
“I knew I was destined as a kid not to be the same as anyone else.”
That’s big talk from someone with one England cap. It’s tempting to wonder if Barton is frustrated with himself for not being as good as he thinks he should be.
Barton’s determination to stand out from the crowd must make for an exhausting life. It has certainly got him into trouble enough times.
Sometimes, it almost seems as if Barton is only Joey Barton when he feels that the world is against him. You can speculate that may be borne from his attempts to escape the Liverpool estate of his youth, overcome teenage rejection by his boyhood heroes Everton and make it as a professional footballer, against the odds. A ‘screw the world’ attitude might well have helped then, but it won’t work now.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the interview came when he was asked about his friendship with boxer Ricky Hatton, a working-class hero who is not afflicted with Barton’s red mist.
“I think it’s a bit easier if he’s angry with someone, because he can take it out when he puts on his gloves,” Barton said, as if boxing were a sport without discipline. That comment kind of summed up the way Barton came across in the interview; as someone who can only see his own obstacles. Understandable if that were the case, given how many he has had to overcome. But also a very easy way of erecting a few more in front of you.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Barton said at one point in the interview, perhaps heartily sick at the thought of having to rake over another of his misdemeanours for the 1,000th time. It’s not hindsight he needs, though. It’s foresight.