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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
You can say whatever you like about his moral compass, and I've certainly used several pages of this newspaper to do that in the past, but you cannot question Joey Barton's courage. On his first full game since being released from prison, the occasional Newcastle midfielder smashed home an early penalty to set the Magpies in motion and send them on their way to their first league victory since August, 23.

It was Barton who supplied the initial pass to Shola Ameobi, clumsily felled in the area by Ryan Donk, and it was Barton who raced up to the penalty spot to demand the ball from regular taker Obafemi Martins. Joe Kinnear admitted afterwards that his fiery midfielder would have been in trouble had he missed, but that was never an option. Despite Scott Carson's amateurish attempts at putting him off, Barton held his nerve and drove the ball into the net. His cathartic badge-thumping celebrations were much appreciated by the St James Park crowd who appear to be coming round to the positive aspects of having him in their team.

When Obafemi Martins headed home unopposed just before the break, it seemed that the three points were secure, but then Newcastle just wouldn't be Newcastle without the unnecessary and avoidable drama. It's impossible to know what Joe Kinnear said at half-time, but I guarantee that it wasn't, "Sit back and stop playing lads, this lot are rubbish."

Nevertheless, Newcastle's grip on the game slackened and West Bromwich Albion began to dictate the tempo of the play, though not as convincingly as they did when Tony Mowbray finally decided to throw on a second striker. The Baggies are capable of playing some delightful football, but with bruising striker Roman Bednar as the lone frontman, they rarely threatened. Linking twenty or so passes together in the middle of the pitch is all very impressive, but if there is no-one there skilful enough to create chances, it's just a waste. The introduction of Ishmael Miller, the powerful loanee from Manchester City, paid dividends within just ten minutes of his arrival, galloping around Shay Given to slot home a consolation goal.

But there was to be no inglorious capitulation this time. Barton's influence wasn't limited to his time on the ball, he was also wandering about the pitch handing out guidance and advice to his team-mates, encouraging them to hold their line and secure the victory. This, of course, may have come as something of a surprise to the Newcastle team, several of whom must have wondered who he was, and those that knew may have been expecting advice on the art of bartering with cigarettes, or how to make a switchblade from a toothbrush and a razor.

Will this new, changed Barton survive for long in the face of extended provocation from the stands? Only time will tell. For the moment, Kinnear will focus simply on the fact that his return to the team is like a new, big-money signing and that this win has lifted Newcastle out of the relegation zone for the first time in weeks. That in itself, is change enough for now.

MISS OF THE DAY - A dragged-back cross from Shola Ameobi found Habib Beye alone on the edge of West Bromwich Albion’s penalty area, but defenders aren’t renowned for composure that far up the field. The Senegalese right-back almost took the floodlights out with his shot.

ELECTRIC - Ishmael Miller made a huge difference when he arrived to replace Chris Brunt. Miller is a raw talent from the Manchester City academy, but there were signs here that he could be one to watch. His goal was exceptionally well taken and he was a menace to the Newcastle defenders.

SAFE HANDS - On quiet days, I sometimes like to reflect on unanswerable questions like, “Where would Newcastle be now if it wasn’t for Shay Given?” With another two fine saves here to secure three points, I think my guess today would be, “League Two.”

PUNTERS RANT - Anyone who backed West Bromwich Albion to take something from this, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did, would have been desperately frustrated at Mowbray’s refusal to play two strikers. Who dares may not always win, but they might at least be able to force a draw.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Excellent with the ball at his feet, composed, assured, and scorer of the opening goal, it’s fair to say that Joey Barton enjoyed his first full game for five months



Shay Given, Habib Beye, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez (Geremi), Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie, Damien Duff, Shola Ameobi (Andrew Carroll), Obafemi Martinds (Xisco)

West Bromwich Albion

Scott Carson, Gianni Zuiverloon, Ryan Donk, Jonas Olsson, Paul Robinson, Robert Koren, James Morrison, Jonathan Greening, Chris Brunt (Ishmael Miller), Borja Valero, Roman Bednar (Luke Moore)

Yellow Cards - Donk, Robinson, Moore, Bednar (WBA)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 45,801