>Joey Barton – It’s Long but Articulate

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“At the end of the day, I let a lot of people down and now I’m just hoping to re-pay them. I know a lot of people don’t think that I deserve another chance but fortunately I have got one. I am very, very fortunate. And now I have to make the most of it. There are people that have been in jail longer than me. I was watching the boxing the other night and saw Bernard Hopkins. He had been in jail for four years and managed to turn his life around. I just have to try to take inspiration from that. I’m not the first person to mess up and I have messed up on more than one occasion, but nothing sobers you up like the reality of going to prison. That’s it. I know it’s the last chance saloon. I am just thankful that I’ve got that opportunity. Now it’s time for me to keep my head down and let my football do my talking.

“I have done enough talking over the last few years and sometimes I have been pretty controversial. But to be to honest it is always the truth. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t feel it. At the end of the day, I am a human being. I have made mistakes. Probably a lot more mistakes that other people. People are quick to condemn me, but if you don’t make mistakes you don’t give them the chance to start throwing stones. But all I would say is that I have hopefully learned from my mistakes and I am trying to put things right and get my football career and my life back on track. I probably won’t speak to the Press again for a long time. But I know that if I don’t speak people will just print what they want. So I am just taking this chance to clear things up. It’s not that I don’t want to speak but it’s just a case of me stopping talking and starting performing.

“Time will be the great teller. One thing I do know is that I am sober. I have not had a drink for ten months – since December 27th. That’s a start. It’s well-documented that I have had problems with alcohol in the past and the thing I went to jail for was alcohol-related. I am not using that as an excuse. It was my own stupidity. We have all had a few pints. Alcohol does something to you that makes you do things that you would not necessarily do when you are sober. Things will be levelled at me that I had a fight with Ousmane (Dabo) when I was sober. I understand that. I know that if I drink again I am putting my football career in jeopardy. I have to put everyone that has believed in me first and that is why I will not drink again. I feel better instantly.

The last 18 months have been hell. I have been living with a court case over me. If I am brutally honest I knew that I was going to jail. Imagine trying to get out of jail and then going back to St James’ Park getting booed by the fans. I wasn’t playing particularly well. I was over-weight. I wasn’t feeling sharp. But somehow I found the strength to come through it. I put in a couple of average performances at the end of the season, in my own opinion. I did a decent stint for the team and thankfully for me the manager at the time, Mister (Kevin) Keegan, he saw that and the way I turned my life around and stopped drinking. I was trying to take on board everything that everyone was saying to me, but probably in the past I always thought I knew best.

“Prison wasn’t a nice experience and hopefully people can see the stupid mistakes I have made and think to themselves maybe they won’t make as many mistakes as I have made. Now I can be a shining beacon for kids who have been in trouble before like myself, people who have messed up. I can hopefully show them that if you knuckle down and try to do that right things then time is a great healer.

“In the long-term that will be my focus. But in the meantime I am just trying to get m my life back on track. Obviously it has been documented that I had to do community service and at the minute I am still repaying my debt to society and what the judge has ordered. There will be things I will be doing especially with something like Sporting Chance and causes that are supported by the club. It’s important that I am able to do what I know about and things that have helped me through the difficult times and in the local area and around the club to repay my debt to everyone who has had the embarrassment of reading the papers and having to read about me going out drinking and doing stupid things. Since I got out of prison, there has been a weight off my shoulders. I don’t feel under pressure and I don’t have to got and stand in front of a judge anymore. I don’t feel like I am going to jail.

“Just try to imagine for one minute having to go on a football pitch and, at the end of the season when everyone else is planning to go to Dubai or America and they’re all sitting there thinking about where they will be going on their holiday, all I was thinking about was going to jail. And that was down to my own stupidity. But I still had to go on to the pitch and turn in performances but sometimes your head just isn’t clear. But I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me by any means. If anything I rightly deserve every bit of criticism that was levelled at me. I can’t stand here and try to defend myself because I am indefensible. And I am the first to acknowledge that – I am indefensible.

“To say I want to be a different person would be to take away what I am myself. There are bits of me that I don’t want to be. And the majority of those things come out when I am drinking. I don’t really want to use drink as an excuse, but it was a major part of me messing up. If you read about my previous incidents, which were well documented, a lot of people know about them, it was about drink. You do feel a little bit sort of, not hard done by, but my reputation will always precede me to the day I die for some people that probably can’t be quickly enough.

“For me, I have looked at the Cipriani-Lewsey incident and while I don’t know exactly what went on there, what I do know is that sportsmen in full-contact sports – although rugby is a lot more full-contact than us – tempers do get heated. I have seen that throughout my career. Maybe if it was English guys it never leaves the training ground, but at the end of the day it’s well documented and it does take two to tango. People must remember that. But I am disappointed at myself for the way I reacted but there are lessons to be learned and if I don’t learn those lessons then my career will be over. My chance will have gone. I have had more chances than anyone deserved but I am just thankful that I have got them and hopefully I will go some way to repaying the debt. I may never fully repay it but I will have to try.

“They (fans who want him sacked) have an argument. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but thankfully for me the club chose no to do that for whatever reasons. It never happened and today all I know is that I’m an employee of Newcastle United and as soon as I get back on the football pitch I will endeavour to give it my all. That’s all I have ever done. That’s something that could never be levelled at me. When I was at Manchester City, I always gave everything had and the same applies to Newcastle. What I lack in ability and all other things I try to make up for in hard work. That’s all I can do.

“You can’t make everyone happy. I have probably made a lot more people unhappy than a normal person will, but young kids may look at the likes of Michael Owen, David Beckham who are unbelievable professionals, who are squeaky clean and can’t relate to them. I have met people on the street and I have met people in prison and they relate to you. When I speak, I speak from experience about the things I have done wrong in my life and how I have tried to change them. I think they respect that.

“Hopefully I will be able to reach those people who have been unreachable. That’s all I can do. People have reached out for me and tried to help me when I didn’t deserve it. Hopefully I can be there and be a role model that I haven’t been before. All I’ve wanted to do all my life was play football and that’s all I know. I live and breathe the game. If I don’t play well on a Saturday I go home and sit down and watch the game in a sulk and try to put things right on a Monday morning.

“Probably I have been guilty of caring too much about my profession and that sometimes spills over. When I have got into trouble before on training grounds … if anything, I expected too much of others. That’s something I have do deal with. It’s not a case of all of a sudden you go to jail and you see the light and you come out. It’s a work in progress. The main thing for me is staying sober. I have a great support system from all the guys at Sporting Chance and I feel so good about the future. It’s messy when I look back. It’s not great when I look back and if I could go back and rewind things and change things, I would, but I can’t. All is do is look to the future and try to help or soothe things and repay my debts for what I have done wrong.”
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