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The (Reportedly) £2m Question: Joey Barton To Sunderland, Yay Or Nay??

Barton - Never one to keep his views to himself
Barton - Never one to keep his views to himself

Ok, whoa, hear me out. I realise that the title will have sent some readers into a bit of a rage, not dissimilar to the ones that the man in question is ever-so partial to, but let's look at this logically, shall we?

Surprisingly, a quick ask on Twitter the other day suggested that quite a few fans would be willing to take the chance on him, something I didn't expect after the unanimous no that I received from Michael Graham and Simon Walsh on a podcast not so long ago...

He is painfully unliked by those whose team he plays against, but quite the opposite is true, it seems, if he is pulling on your club's colours. Monday's revelation means that he is essentially available on a free transfer, but there would be something along the lines of £2m in compensation to deal with. Would we take Joey Barton at Sunderland? Can we look past his 'colourful' past? Is he just too much of a dick to even bother with? Or is his Twitter reflective of quite an intelligent, interesting, entertaining and altogether more calm man now?

We'll start with a bit of background, should you have been living in a cave for the past few months...

As much as it pains me to say it, Joey Barton has been a welcome addition to the world of Twitter. Never afraid to speak his mind, and infinitely more interesting than Michael Owen, it seemed that the writing was somewhat on the wall when undercover agent Mike Ashley used his infinite wisdom and apparent hatred of the team that he owns in selling captain, goalscorer and pretty much the glue that held Newcastle together, Kevin Nolan.

Tweeting after finding out about the transfer, Joey said "Just on my way to Ascot, feel sick. Great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD #mejoseandjonas next". If that wasn't the beginning of the end, then I don't know what was.

Since then, there have been regular potshots at the board concerning his contract, and reiterations that he likes it at St James' Park, didn't want to leave, but was left with no choice. "I will most likely leave Newcastle at end of season, when my contract expires and I am no longer employed. Its out of my hands #iwanttostay?"

Thankfully, for our entertainment, it wasn't just Barton who was starting to become disillusioned with Mag life, and Jose Enrique found himself £100,000 worse off for a couple of tweets laying into the board for not reinvesting the money that they received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll. "No more player Twitter" came the cry from up above, but the story doesn't end there.

With rumours of an apparent dressing room bust-up with Pardew at the Newcastle v Leeds game on Sunday, Monday saw the proverbial poo finally hit the fan when Barton sent out some more of his feelings about his current employers, or at least someone in power above him. Having tweeted that he would make an announcement at 4pm, the club beat him to the chase and told the media that he was available on a free transfer. Not quite the sacking, or being released from his contract that was doing the rumour mills, but still a bombshell for those up the road.

He did finally rediscover his voice, once the Twit frenzy has calmed down, telling us that "Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata", before sticking the boot into the hierarchy one more time, by declaring "One day the board might realise, what the shirt signifies. HONOUR and PRIDE. Thanks for your continued support........... #toonarmy".

And that, it seems, is where Barton's checkered Newcastle career joins to a close.

Now it is a measure of his talent, that within a few minutes of the announcement, journalists across the land were declaring that Barton could, and probably should, be interesting every team in the land, with offers apparently already on the table from Stoke City, Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal.

My question is, if teams such as the two London sides think Barton is good enough for them, and teams around us such as Stoke and Everton want to sign him, should we? This thought, however, also confirmed what we already know about the man. His talent is never and was never in doubt, but it is the baggage, the attitude and his obvious (though he would argue that he is a changed man) nasty streak that deters potential suitors.

So, to best look at this, it seems easiest to simply draw up a list of pros and cons. We'll start, perhaps fittingly, with the cons.

1. He plays for the Mags

Ok, so it's obvious from the first con, that we aren't doing these in order. This isn't such a problem to us in the current era. Our boss is from Newcastle, it's no secret, and the player that we used to call Titus Shambles, and a whole lot worse, made the move to Wearside. Still, it doesn't help matters, does it?

2. He's a convicted thug

We all know what Joseph did to his ex team-mate Ousmane Dabo in training, it left him with severe cuts to his head and face, as well as a suspected detached retina. We all know that he put a cigar out on Jason Tandy (a City youth player at the time), coincidentally in his eye. Some of us will remember that he was once sent home from a Manchester City pre-season tour in Thailand for assaulting a 15-year-old Everton fan who had kicked him. Who knows what would have happened if Richard Dunne wasn't there to restrain him. We all know that he served 77 days in prison for beating up a teenager outside of McDonalds. Then, after coming out and reiterating that he's a changed man, he punches Morten Gamst Pedersen in the stomach last season. Now, I know that we'd all liked to have done that at some point, but come on Joey, that one wasn't big or clever, it was childish. Wow, that's quite a hefty point.

3. Can he be trusted?

While it is easy to see Mike Ashley as the bad guy in this situation, let's not forget that it all started when Barton went to him, looking for a new contract. Hoping to get a few more pennies in the bank, it seems that Joey and his agent underestimated Ashley, as they left with the news that not only would he not get the new contract that he thought he deserved, but his current one wouldn't be getting renewed either. Cue the beginning of 'Bartongate'. It's all well and good to see Barton as the victim in all of this, as his hashtag #kickamanwhenhesdown would suggest, but a cynic's view of the situation would be that Barton is the one that has engineered his own move by constantly bad mouthing his employers. Whether he will earn anymore elsewhere is questionable, but what isn't in doubt is the fact that Barton didn't have to say all of this on Twitter and didn't have to make it all public. What's to say that he won't do the same again at a new club?

4. We wouldn't want to give him the opportunity to turn us down

For all that Joey has been slating the top brass at NUFC, he does seem genuinely fond of the club, and the fans. His final tweet on the matter saw him suggest that the management has no idea what it means to wear the black and white stripes, and he has consistently said, regardless of whether it is true or not, that he doesn't want to leave the club. Would his loyalty to the club and its fans mean that he wouldn't sign for Sunderland? Maybe. But stranger things have happened.

5. We've just signed loads of midfielders

Yes, the competition in midfield is healthy already. Added to Richardson, Colback, Cattermole, Elmo, Steed, Sessegnon and more are Vaughan, Gardner and Larsson. Do we need another midfielder? Yes, but one with a left foot. Is Barton better than what we already have? Maybe.

6. He's a tw*t.

Enough said.

And that's probably enough negatives. I'm sure you lot can think of more, and feel free to make yourself heard on the comments field at the bottom of the story.

So with so many reasons not to sign him, surely there must be a few positives to a potential transfer, yes?

1. He plays for the Mags

Admittedly, this is the same as point one on the negatives, but look at it this way... Barton signs for Sunderland. He fits straight into the team. The scores are level as the game edges into stoppage time at the Stadium of Light on August 20th. Who wants to take the free kick more than anyone else in the ground? The man who got, in his own eyes, kicked out of St James' Park, and has a vendetta to settle. Up he steps, the ball sails into the top corner, all is forgiven, and we have the ultimate anti-Chopra on our hands.

2. He's actually rather a good footballer

I know we all hate him, but that in itself isn't enough to look past the fact that he is actually a good player. An OptaJoe stat surfaced in the aftermath of the whole ordeal claiming that the Barcodes' win percentage last season with Barton was 34%. Without him it was 0%. That stat in itself tells something of a story. Top journalist and friend of Roker Report Iain Macintosh said this week that Barton was knocking on the door of the PFA Player of the Year award, which probably isn't far wrong. His assists for Carroll, before his move to Liverpool, were arguably the main reason that Newcastle performed above expectation last season. I know that we now have Larsson, but someone with the ability to put a good ball in, and get goals themselves is always going to be valuable in any team.

3. He's available for a fraction of the price that he's actually worth

Let's be honest, even if a team, be it us or not, chose to pay the reported £2m compensation for Barton, and then picked him up officially on a free, they'd be getting a bargain. For starters he is English, which slaps a zero or two on the end of any price tag, and if you look at some of the fees that have changed hands for English midfielders in recent years, you get a picture of what I mean. Gareth Barry - 18m. Shaun Wright Phillips - 21m. Jordan Henderson - £20m. While Barton's resale fee might not be extortionate, he certainly provides value for money.

4. He is (possibly) improving his attitude

The Pedersen punch aside, Barton hasn't been in trouble as much recently. I know that's like saying that a murderer is ok, as he's only been doing GBH for the past few months, but a lack of controversary surrounding the fists that have got him into trouble many times before, and a slowly-increasing popularity among 'haters' on Twitter may mean that Joey is on the verge of turning a corner. Unfortunately, it is likely that only he knows this, and we'll only get to find out when he chins someone.

And there you have it, my personal pros and cons to signing Joseph Anthony Barton. As you can see, there are more cons, but does that really come as a surprise when talking about someone with so much 'baggage'?

Interestingly, I had a chat with the afore-mentioned Iain Macintosh in February about our football stars and their use of Twitter, and one statement in particular came to mind when I sat down to write this piece. It was all well and good when Darren B£nt was forcing his own move to Sunderland through the social networking site, but now the boot is on the other foot, we don't see it quite the same way...

Darren Bent's rant at Daniel Levy was the first instance of a player 'forcing a move' through Twitter. Can we expect more of this in the future?

Iain: "No, I think players are slowly wising up. There will be the odd maverick going 'broken arrow', but it won't be long before Twitter Etiquette is taught at football academies across the country."

The rest of my chat with Mr Macintosh can be found here.

What are your thoughts on us potentially signing Barton? I haven't even touched on the idea of him being a role model to children, and the possibility that we are essentially telling them that violence is OK, as long as you are good at football, but in this instance, does his footballing talent outweigh his obvious flaws? Let us know what you think, and have a vote on the poll. It will be interesting to gauge the thoughts of our supporters...

There's more of this on The Roker Report Podcast, a podcast which only talks about SAFC... And Noel Edmonds... And Rapping... But its predominantly SAFC! Come get subscribed...

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