If Newcastle United are putting together a plan on how to deal with Joey Barton when he is released from prison, they might do well to look to the other side of the world.
Jimmy Cowan is a very good rugby player. He’s been involved with the All Blacks first team squad for the past 4 years winning 10 caps, the last of them against England a few weeks ago. But, the 26 year old has twice been arrested for disorder offences within the last two months.
The reaction of the NZRU was clear and unequivocal as explained by manager Darren Shand who said: “He must change if he wants to be a professional player in New Zealand. We’ve made it a condition of his employment that he stop drinking altogether. This is his last chance.”
Newcastle United must be thinking along similar lines.
This week, Barton escaped a second spell in prison when he received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm on former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo.
Barton is currently serving a six-month jail term, which began on 20th May, after pleading guilty to charges of assault and affray over an incident at a McDonald’s in Liverpool city centre on 27th December.
Newcastle have said they want to hold talks with the player and his representatives and PFA chairman Gordon Taylor is hoping Barton can address his problems.
“It’s one of those strange situations that when you talk to the lad in the cold light of day he’s quiet, he’s calm, he’s considered,” Taylor told talkSPORT.
“But he has those demons – there’s no doubt they’re there. He’s been fortunate with this sentence, that it’s been suspended.
“No doubt the judge, like us (the PFA), will be hoping that this term in prison will have made him come to terms with his problems – and I hope he’s eradicated them for the sake of his life and his football career.
“We encouraged him to take use of our facility at Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance clinic that is staffed by people who have been through and have had various addictive problems,” added Taylor.
Barton is lucky that he has someone of Taylor’s stature willing to go in to bat for him.
But the time for second chances, as with Cowan, must have come and gone. And Newcastle have got to make that crystal clear.