Queens Park Rangers have pulled off something of a major coup after Joey Barton was snapped up on a free transfer from Newcastle United. The midfielder had had surprisingly announced the move on Twitter late on Wednesday night and now he looks set to make his debut for QPR on September 12, against his old team Newcastle.
A surprisingly honest Barton spoke quite candidly when asked about the transfer and spoke of his sadness at leaving Newcastle.
“It is disappointing times and it’s sad when Newcastle’s best players are leaving to go elsewhere.”
Barton was also keen to pay tribute to the Toon Army, Newcastle’s fans.
“I’ve an incredibly special relationship with the Geordie nation,” he added.
“Unfortunately they weren’t the decision makers at the football club…”
Barton, so often a dividing figure throughout his career, fell out of favour with the hierarchy at the club after a number of outbursts during the summer. With one year left on his contract and with the club having just sold his midfield partner Kevin Nolan and striker Andy Carroll, the Liverpudlian questioned the ambition and transfer policies of the club.
The club, seeing his comments as little more than a tool to further his wage demands, immediately placed Barton on the transfer list and intimated that he would be allowed to leave the club as a free transfer should any other team contact them about his availability. Such was their desire to remove his presence from the training ground and dressing room.
The midfielder then began something of a war of words with the club on Twitter where his comments had further impact as clubs began banning and censoring their players from the social networking site.
Newcastle’s refusal to give in to Barton’s wage demands and remove him from the transfer list caused something of a transfer frenzy amongst the media, especially as Liverpool had just signed Jordan Henderson for £20 million with many feeling that Barton was a much better option.
Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa, Malaga, and Paris St. Germain were all immediately linked with potential moves for the player. However, only newly promoted Queens Park Rangers would contact the North East side over Barton’s availability and with Newcastle still refusing to offer him a new contract. It looks as if the midfielder could become Neil Warnock’s first major signing of the season.
As the Premier League season kicked off, Barton was sensationally returned to the team by Alan Pardew as Newcastle readied to face the latest crisis club in the EPL, Arsenal.
True to form, Barton was never too far from controversy.
Alex Song should have been sent off for stamping on the midfielders calf as he lay prone on the ground, but the referee missed the incident. Then new Gunners signing Gervinho was tripped in the box as the referee waved play on.
In something of an ironic twist, an irate Barton ran over to the prone Arsenal forward and dragged him up off the floor for diving. Gervinho then brushed his hand across Barton’s cheek with a very feint slap but the Newcastle player immediately hit the ground as if he had been shot by a sniper.
Considering his actions just ten seconds prior, this was an extremely bad show of form by the QPR-bound player.
Many cynics believe that the entire episode at Newcastle was expertly orchestrated to get the player a free transfer to a larger club but as the potential move to QPR nears it looks as if the player could well be fighting in the relegation trenches come the end of the season.
The move comes as a huge surprise and has moved at such a pace that very few journalists had time to find out about the potential move. In the end, it was Barton’s Twitter account, so often a well for stories, which revealed how far the move had gone.
“Going for a medical now, still no contract offer from NUFC…….think that just about makes my mind up.”
“Don’t want to leave Newcastle……..I’ve made that clear but my hands are tied.”
As far as QPR is concerned, they are getting an above average player who just had, most likely, his best season of all time. His previous footballing record, on and off the pitch, ruled that European chasing clubs had little or no interest in the player, but he will definitely bring a certain bite to Warnock’s midfield as they look to remain in the Premier League come May.
One of the biggest stories this summer was not the actual fact that Barton was available for transfer. No, it was his use of social media and in particular Twitter.
There is little doubt that the midfielder is a dividing figure and his us of quotes by Morrissey, George Orwell and Nietzche have opened up this complicated personality in ways never seen before.
For once he has become a fully rounded character with a mind of his own rather than the oft called lunatic chasing a bag of air around a field.
Speaking to BBC Sport after the transfer he did little to dispel the growing interest in the thoughts of the enigmatic player.
“I think footballers are massively well placed to make decisions because they are in the heat of the battle,” he said.
“For me the most important thing is, if someone asks me a question, I tell them the truth.
“For some people they don’t want people to know the truth.
“Ultimately people pay to come and watch the football. They don’t come and watch how people run the football club.
“We are the performers, the artists.”
Barton is obviously hurt by his treatment at Newcastle and perhaps other clubs. And by his treatment he also means his team’s treatment. Having a good side dismantled right in front of you for nothing more than profit is one of the most demoralizing things any player can go through.
As a professional footballer you accept that players will come and go that they will move on when better money is on the table and that they will take the best deal that suits them at the time. It’s the game within the game. But when that game is twisted and perverted and players are allowed to leave without replacing them the remaining players feel abandoned. Not from the players who have left but from the owners who have pocketed the money and not filled the resulting hole.
This move was an important one for Barton. The 28-year-old has just signed his last major contract and with it he gains a reported £80,000 per week and all the guarantees and security that a four year contract can bring. In short, it will set his family up for life.
“My decision was to join an exciting emerging football club that has very exciting short-term ideas and really exciting long-term ideas,” he said.
“I’m in the prime of my career and to make a move of this magnitude you have to be excited.
“I had to make decision in the best interests of myself and my footballing career.
“I felt it was a fantastic opportunity and one I had to take.”
In a side story to the Barton move, but one that could have far more significance as far as QPR is concerned, the clubs new owner Tony Fernandes has announced “significant reductions and refunds on ticket prices throughout the club.”
The size of the reductions have yet to be finalised, but many feel the price of a season ticket at Loftus Road, which had increased by 40 percent, will be reduced dramatically.
The clubs newly appointed CEO, Phillip Beard, announced that;
“These changes show how serious we are about taking the fans’ views on board.”
“Ticket prices are imperative to the business structure and we are confident our supporters will react positively to the news and help make Loftus Road a fortress on match-days.”
Beard then went one step further by announcing that match day tickets would also be reduced and that in certain sections of the ground children under 8-years-of-age would now gain entrance free of charge as long as they were with a paying adult.
All in all it has been a very good day for your average QPR fan.