When I signed Joey Barton for Newcastle I knew about his troubles. I had asked about him and I asked him directly. He told me he was working on his problems, like alcohol, and getting expert help at the Sporting Chance clinic. I believe in giving people a fair chance and I took him for honesty and his football talent. He wanted to do well and, to be fair, we didn't have any problems with him up at Newcastle. It was only when he went back to Liverpool and was with family and friends and he went out drinking when the problems occurred.
There is no question he has ability, but that won't make any difference if he cannot control himself off the pitch. It's not easy when you are a young footballer and have bad influences, but the six-month prison sentence for the assault that took place last December in Liverpool and now the four-month suspended sentence for his attack on Ousmane Dabo is the shock to the system that will hopefully get Joey right and change his life.
Inside he will have had time to reflect on what's happened and I'm sure he will not want to go through it all again. Prison is the ultimate punishment and if this doesn't make him want to get things right, then nothing will. If he comes out with an electronic tag around his ankle, that will be a constant reminder about the experience and make him grateful he has a second chance. What he did was wrong and you cannot say he does not deserve what has happened to him, but I am also a believer that if you have served your sentence in the justice system then you have been punished.
If Newcastle sack him then it will be another punishment and defeat the objective of Joey trying to put things right and become a better person. It could also be dangerous to take away football from him. He is a complete football man. His life revolves around it; there's nothing else. Without it, he could reoffend and, even worse, go into a depression. We have had people in the past committing suicide because they could not cope with life after professional football. Dave Clement, who was with me at Bolton, was one at 34 and it's very sad when something like that happens.
If Newcastle keep Joey, this is the last chance for him. He is fighting for his future because I don't think anyone will take him if he steps out of line again. He owes it to the club and playing could help rehabilitate him, especially if he puts something back into the community like working with kids or charity. Joey has had help, but he needs to do things for himself now. There is no point blaming other people anymore. It's down to him to steer clear of the people who are not good for him, to steer clear of alcohol and to control his anger.
He has to learn how to cope when things do not go right in life. He has to gain everyone's trust again not only as a footballer, but also as a person. It would be a sad waste of football talent if he does not sort himself out. I bought him from City because he was a very good player, a box-to-box midfielder who battles hard and gets you goals. He played for England against Spain last year, which should be enough to give him confidence and show him what he can achieve.
It is a distant goal right now, but he needs something like that to give him hope. @Email:email@example.com