Premier League – Parker: Keegan’s head on block over Barton

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Former England defender Paul Parker believes Newcastle have made a grave error in opting to stand by ex-convict Joey Barton – and that Kevin Keegan in particular stands to lose out should the midfielder step out of line again.

2007-2008 Newcastle Kevin Keegan  - 0

“Joey Barton should not have been allowed to return to Newcastle football club.

It is as black and white as the shirt he will once again pull on this season – Newcastle are making a huge mistake in taking him back in.

Barton is a serial offender. He has proved it time and again, both at Manchester City and now at Newcastle.

Some say he deserves a second chance to prove he is a reformed character, that he is capable of behaving himself on and off the pitch, and that he deserves to retain the privileged status of a Premier League footballer.

But what about a third chance? Or even a fourth? Where is the line drawn?

If Keegan had not witnessed first hand Barton’s misdemeanours before, he could possibly be forgiven for taking back the midfielder and helping to turn things around for him.

But the fact is that Keegan has worked with Barton before at Manchester City, where he had already absolved him of sparking a mass on-pitch brawl during a pre-season friendly in 2004 and stubbing out a cigar on the eye of a youth team player at Christmas of the same year.

Keegan should know better. And now his decision to welcome back Barton threatens to come back and bite him. Certainly the manager’s future appears to be very much linked to that of Barton.

Should Barton let his manager down again – and form suggests he will – the spotlight will firmly fall on Keegan and his reasons for giving Barton another chance.

And that could be bad news for Newcastle. After all, as Keegan has shown before, he will not think twice about leaving a club once the going gets tough.

Only Keegan and his directors will know exactly what their reasons for keeping Barton were, but I suspect the decision was two-fold.

First, to lay off Barton would have been too expensive for Newcastle. Whereas in most other walks of life, a stint in prison for beating someone up would usually lead to unemployment, for some reason footballers are more protected in the same circumstances.

And that would have meant a hefty payout, which Newcastle likely felt they could not afford.

Secondly, Keegan knows he is struggling to attract players to Tyneside at the moment. With few other clubs willing to take him on, Barton will at least be grateful to be at St James’ Park and his return will be akin to having a new player, such was his sporadic nature of his appearances in the side last season.

My feelings on Barton as a role model are clear, but I do not rate him as a footballer either. He is certainly not an international class player and that he has won an England cap says a great deal about the state of the national side at the moment.

But Keegan, as his predecessor Sam Allardyce, clearly rates him – enough even to take a huge gamble on keeping him at Newcastle.

A more credible manager may have made a more solid stand, convinced his board to pay Barton off and started the new season free from the fear of being let down once again.

But Keegan has decided to back his man – and must now be prepared to face the consequences.”

Eurosport

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