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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Sorry chaps, forgot to upload this last night...

Well, that didn't take long, did it? Just one week after his composed, match-winning performance against West Bromwich Albion, the halo above Joey Barton's head began to slip. Like all the best horror films, the metamorphosis from man to beast is a slow one, but there were just enough feral flickers here to overshadow an excellent win for Newcastle against high-flying Aston Villa and leave Newcastle fans fearing the inevitable.

Barton was fortunate that only the television cameras picked up his petulance when, early on in the match, he flicked Gabriel Agbonlahor's nose as if he were a naughty puppy. The young England U21 striker was furious, but referee Steve Bennett, who noticed enough elsewhere to warrant eight yellow cards, missed it all. Worse was to come in the second half when the controversial midfielder leapt in with his studs up on Luke Young on the halfway line. For a man who is reported to be quite clever, this was stupidity on a grand scale.

And yet he remains one of the most exciting central midfielders in the country. Only Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can eclipse an on-form Barton's ability to control a game, to breathlessly cover the pitch and to crack open defences with a well-timed, perfectly weighted through-ball. If only you could take his brain out and replace it with something more reliable, a pot plant perhaps or a small housebrick, then you'd have an international class footballer. It was his ball that found Obaefemi Martins on the edge of the area, the Nigerian turning and arrowing a shot past Brad Friedel for the opener. It was his tackling that prevented Aston Villa from getting into their stride. It was his leadership, bizarrely, that enabled Newcastle to hang on to their lead, extending it late on to confirm the points.

Despite a number of efforts to the contrary in the UK press, there can be no suggestion that his flicking constitutes violent conduct, but that's not the problem. It's the sheer lunacy of a man who knows that every camera is trained on him losing his temper. It's the gross negligence of someone who knows that his career is hanging over a precipice, failing to keep his composure long enough to save it. It should be quite simple. If you've just got out of prison for assaulting a team-mate and if you still have a suspended ban still hanging over your head, don't go around flicking people's noses and don't fly into tackles as if you're addicted to the sound of breaking bones. Why doesn't Barton get it?

This, and every other match report you'll find, should have been a glowing assessment of a resurgent Newcastle, galvanised by a most unlikely manager and perched in the relative safety of 14th place. Instead, it remains another blotted page in the copybook of Barton's life. Based on what we've seen here, it's only a matter of time before he ruins it for good.

MISS OF THE DAY - Gabriel Agbonlahor, probably still upset at being disciplined by Joey Barton, missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring, when he swung at James Milner's cross, but made contact only with the ball's shadow. You don't get any points for that.

HITMAN - Obafemi Martins is a strange player. A scorer of great goals, rather than a great goalscorer, as Sam Allardyce said. However, when the mood takes him, as it did here, he is unplayable. Two fine strikes sealed a much needed win for Newcastle, and will preserve the Nigerians place in the starting line-up

TURNING POINT - If Martin Laursen's 11th minute header had hit the other side of Shay Given's post and ended up in the net, this would have been a different story. Aston Villa started stronger than their hosts, but lost their grip on the game as the night wore on.

PUNTERS RANT - Once again, any punters impressed with Aston Villa were let down at the worst possible moment. Villa continue to put short winning runs together, hinting at the potential to challenge for the top four, but never seem to master the consistency needed for that level. Best to avoid.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Despite everything, Joey Barton was still the best player on the pitch, which makes his behaviour all the more infuriating. If he could just start breathing and counting to ten before doing something stupid, it would make his life so much easier.



Shay Given 7, Habib Beye 7, Steven Taylor 7, Fabricio Coloccini 7, Jose Enrique 7, Jonas Gutierrez 8, Joey Barton 8, Nicky Butt 8, Damien Duff 7, Shola Ameobi 6 (Michael Owen 6), Obafemi Martins 8 (Claudio Cacapa 6)

Aston Villa

Brad Friedel 6, Luke Young 6, Martin Laursen 7, Carlos Cuellar 7, Nicky Shorey 6 (Steve Sidwell 6), James Milner 7, Nigel Reo-Coker 6 (Marlon Harewood 6), Gareth Barry 6, Ashley Young 7, John Carew 6, Gabriel Agbonlahor 6

Yellow Cards - Beye, Barton, Martins, Ameobi (Newcastle) Barry, Young, Laursen, Sidwell (Aston Villa)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 44,567