Joey Barton: X-rated or X Factor?
One such contributor is doing so with an ever-growing impact on Twitter. Joseph Anthony Barton (@Joey7Barton) has attracted publicity ever since he burst onto the Premier League scene back in 2002 with his well-publicised on and off-field antics ensuring he’s never far away from the headlines. Violence, petulance, general ill-discipline and apparently a world-record breaking chip on his shoulder have generally cast Barton in the worst of lights. And for many that’s where he still belongs, his crimes too heinous to forgive.
Until a few months ago most would have unknowingly bracketed Barton in the ‘thick footballer’ category – not enough sense to realise the potential he was seemingly wasting and surely destined for little once his legs gave up on him. However the nature, subject matter and eloquence of his tweeting have caused many to rethink this and such is the power of this new form of media, he now seems destined to move into mainstream when he’s finished being everybody’s favourite boo-boy on the green fields of England (and Swansea).
His headline grabbing tweets have generally been contentious, for instance his criticism of Newcastle selling Kevin Nolan to West Ham and his comments upon leaving St. James Park “Somewhere in those echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata”. Even in this instance, including ‘echelons’ and ‘persona non grata’ in the same 140 characters would be beyond many more established minds.
But beyond these criticisms, in recent months he has commented maturely on the riots that swept the country - “Violence always comes from a place of misunderstanding and low to zero self-worth, well mine did anyway” (admittedly talking as if his violence is in the past tense may be pushing boundaries somewhat); has quoted George Orwell in a profound exchange with respected journalist Henry Winter (@HenryWinter); published photos of his favourite Monet and Picasso masterpieces following a visit to the Tate Modern; gave his verdict on former Labour MP Margaret Moran’s expenses hearing and was the foremost campaigner in the online campaign to get official papers on the Hillsborough disaster released by the Government.
Loved by a few, despised by many – whatever your view of Barton there is little doubt that to change people’s perception of him would have been futile before the days of social media. Whilst many of his ½ million followers on Twitter hope to see something explosive, an increasing number are genuinely intrigued as to what will be the next strand of public life philosophised upon by this most compelling of characters.