Tottenham players will be breathing a sigh of relief looking at the Premier League fixture list for this weekend. Not only are they at home against Bolton (this, even they should win), but all around the Premier League there are much bigger matches to be played.
There’s Everton hosting Manchester United, Chelsea v Liverpool, a London derby with West Ham hosting Arsenal, and even West Brom v Hull City could attract greater attention than Tottenham v Bolton.
And this is before we talk about Sunderland hosting Newcastle. And if that wasn’t big enough, it could mark Joey Barton’s comeback after his 6-match ban.
Barton is in an unwinnable position. Any slip he makes – and in the heat of the moment every player is liable to swear, make a wild tackle or shoot from distance in despair – will be used to bludgeon him over the head until he quits and retires from football. And this won’t be restricted to his first game back for Newcastle – you can expect this to continue for several months.
It’s hardly the sort of environment Barton needs if he is to get himself back on track (regardless of whether he’s capable of doing so), nor is it the environment that Newcastle need to extract themselves out of their self-inflicted (or referee-inflicted) troubles.
Barton may not be at Newcastle for much longer, but for his club’s sake and his own he needs to keep his head down and stay cool during the games he plays for the club. Aside from his off-field misdemeanours the boy is a decent footballer who was at one time talked about as a future England midfielder. Those days will never return but he has a chance to pay back Newcastle and more, he has only one chance left before those who’ve backed him till now turn on him.