The coverage of Joey Barton’s summer move to Rangers was befitting of the marquee signing it was billed as.
The midfielder arrived, fresh from winning promotion to the Premier League with Burnley, on a £20,000-a-week contract and quickly set about aiming high.
“I’m coming up here to be the best player in the country,” he said.
However, Barton has not even lasted until Christmas in Glasgow, his contract terminated following a suspension for a training ground bust-up with team-mate Andy Halliday and manager Mark Warburton after the 5-1 loss to Celtic in September.
Barton was sent to train with the under-20s upon his return from the ban and was then signed off with stress before Rangers, compromising with the 34-year-old’s desire to play football elsewhere, were reportedly prepared to pay more than £150,000 to cut him loose.
Barton ends his time in Scotland with only one yellow card to show from his 8 appearances.
It has been a disastrous move for all involved with Barton having wasted around 5 crucial months at the age of 34 and Rangers taking a hit in the pocket to get rid.
Question marks over Warburton
There are also further questions about Warburton, subject of a growing unrest because of Rangers’ indifferent league form, over his misinformed decision to sign a player he must surely have known wasn’t going to sit quietly in the dressing room.
Warburton lacked the experience to deal with a player of Barton’s status and his firm but fair approach to man management probably wasn’t the best antidote to Barton’s fiery attitude and willingness to have his voice heard above the others.
Warburton is demanding and emphasises excellence but the trouble is so does Barton and when the midfielder wasn’t producing the displays that gave him the authority to question his team-mates, the manager chose to accept he had made an error rather than risk damaging team unity.
Barton failed to immerse himself in Glasgow and appeared agitated from the moment he signed his contract, denigrating Scottish football and immediately seeking out an unprovoked verbal fight with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and his midfielder Scott Brown.
“He’s not in my league” is what Barton said of the Scotland captain and with Barton now leaving the league Brown sits comfortably top of and having outclassed his opponent at Parkhead back at the start of September, how regrettable and idiotic do those words now look.
Paying the price for speaking out
It was another instance of Barton’s penchant for speaking out before he thinks and having spent his time in the aftermath of his contract cancellation appearing on TV to reveal he nearly had a punch-up with Mark Hughes when at QPR, openly talking about what went wrong for Chris Hughton at Newcastle and lambasting Gareth Southgate and England during Friday’s game against Scotland, it suggests a player who will be preoccupied with searching for his next fight as he will be searching for his next club.
His performances under Sean Dyche, whose harnessing of Barton’s temper and ability are testament to his own considerable management skills, across a gruelling Championship campaign were recent enough to indicate he can still offer something to the clubs that may offer Barton his next home, but one can imagine the long list of unsavoury incidents and the player’s outspoken nature putting many managers off joining the queue.
He can still offer leadership and a vocal presence but would Steve McClaren want the cage rattled as he tries to rebuild Derby County, or would David Moyes risk turning to somebody with such a toxic record as he desperately tries to find the right formula at Sunderland? Age is also doing no favours, with Barton cutting even more of a perturbed figure as his legs begin to decline.
Barton is raging against the dying of the light, but we’ve become so accustomed to the raging that it has now become tiresome.
Many potential suitors, put off further by his rumpus with Warburton, will now feel he simply isn’t worth the effort or financial gamble.
A rent-a-quote circus
The midfielder has now turned into a rent-a-quote circus that often mystifies.
It is hard, for example, to fall for the philosophical intellect act when he was the player who put a cigar out in a youth teamer’s eye and has a career that is littered with numerous assaults.
The Question Time appearances and the role in the National Secular Society will be framed as an attempt to reform but football can do a lot better than having the player who referred to Thiago Silva as an “overweight ladyboy”, and who required anger-management classes after swinging at Tom Huddlestone’s groin when at QPR, as its self-appointed political and current-affairs spokesman.
A date with the Scottish FA over a charge for betting on football matches is next on Barton’s schedule with a short ban likely, another incident that doesn’t reflect too well on the midfielder as he attempts to convince his next employer that he will readily accept authority.
It seems possible that Barton may not be with a club until after Christmas, leaving little time to get truly up to speed before the season finishes.
Will someone take a punt on him?
Barton is still high-profile enough to avoid being chucked out on the scrapheap just yet, but it will be a brave manager and club that houses him next.
“The difficulty is that if someone is looking for conflict I won’t shy away from it – ever”, said Barton in an interview shortly after finding himself suspended from Rangers. He may now discover football shying away from him.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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