Amidst the incredible chaos of the Etihad stadium on the final day of the season, where Manchester City somehow clinched the title with two injury time goals, QPR midfielder Joey Barton was sent off for violent conduct in an incident that may threaten his future in the game. In the 54th minute of an extraordinary game of football, with the score standing at 1-1 Barton swung his elbow into the throat of City striker Carlos Tevez off the ball. The referee took the only action possible – a straight red card for the already booked Barton. What happened next, however, was what will really count against the controversial Barton. With City and QPR players surrounding the referee, Barton angrily and with no clear provocation lashed out at City’s other Argentine star Kun Aguero at the side of the melee, then aimed a head-butt at Vincent Company before being escorted from the pitch by members of the Ranger’s coaching staff.
The FA and PFA are still debating how severe a punishment the one time England international will receive but it could well be heavy enough to keep him out until midway through next season. It is the latest in a long line of such incidents, both on and off the field, involving Joey Barton who has attracted trouble everywhere he has gone since his debut with Manchester City back in 2002.
He was at the centre of a ten man brawl during a pre-season friendly in 2004 against Doncaster Rovers when his frequent rash tackling became too much for this opponents. The following summer he was sent home from a pre-season tour for assaulting a 15 year old Everton fan who had verbally attacked him. Since then he has been arrested for assaulting a taxi driver in Liverpool, assaulting a teammate during a training ground dispute and assaulting another man on a night out, after which he admitted he had serious problems with alcohol.
Despite all this, Barton remains an effective on pitch presence – a tough tackling midfielder with a decent understanding of the game and a cracking shot. It may be a long time, however, before we see him put those skills to use again.