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The new Joey Barton

You may remember him from such memorable scenes as assault a teammate and stub a lit cigarette out in a teammate’s eye. Then there was the unforgettable beat up a 16 year old outside of a McDonald’s and the sequel, spend six months in Her Majesty’s Prison System.

But Joey Barton is a changed man.

Speaking on the Wednesday edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today program, Barton told his mentor Tony Adams, who was guest hosting the show, that “most footballers are knobs.” It was only the consequences of his addiction to alcohol and inability to control his anger that enabled him to escape the “Peter Pan” world of professional football.

joey barton heading to court

Joey Barton: the old days.

Decrying a lifestyle in which agents organize players’ lives so that they are removed from the lives of those who pay to watch them play, Barton said, “Driving around in flash cars and  changing them like you change your socks, wearing stupid diamond watches and spending money like it’s going out of fashion in the middle of a recession when some people are struggling to put food on the table for the kids – it’s not the way to do it.”

Barton described many professional soccer players as “so detached from real life it’s untrue. But there was a stage when I was like that.”

“I was earning £20,000 a week and yet I didn’t even know how to behave, I was just a child,” he said. “You grow up in an environment where, as long as you’re a good player, you’re told that you’re the best all the time. But whether you’re the best footballer in the world or the best golfer or the best cricketer, you’re a human being . . . you might be crap at life.”

Barton, now sober for two years, found help at the Sporting Chance Clinic. The clinic was founded by Adams, who is himself a recovering alcoholic.

He described the counseling he received there as enabling himself to see that he is basically “a simple bloke.” Barton, who is recovering from a foot injury that has left him out of the Newcastle lineup since September, said, “It was never for me about the cars, the women, the money – whatever people perceive to come with it. I love football, I want to play football.”

Kind of warms your heart, doesn’t it? As long as he doesn’t screw up.

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