by Mel Huckridge

‘Gobby Scouse git.’
No, not Derek Hatton, but the bloke behind me, referring to Joey Barton a couple of months ago. That’s what most thought before we signed him, and many still do now.

His past exploits, serial assaults, including stubbing a cigar out in a player’s eye, cannot really be defended.

Occasionally, they have been punctuated with glimpses of honesty, certainly his comment after the 2006 World Cup, about the England players bringing out autobiographies after performing badly is accurate in the extreme.

He should have won the Terry Scott award for over acting in the opening match of last season, whilst still playing for Newcastle, resulting in Gervinho being dismissed. These incidents, in my eyes, are not worth in depth analysis simply because he was not paid to wear the most famous blue and white hoops on the planet.

From roughly the end of August 2011 this all changed, a line should be drawn under his previous misdemeanours, he was ours, Rangers had arrived in the Premier League, eyebrows were being raised, but it showed we meant business.

As for his actual talent, most, even the well informed among us, were unsure about his footballing abilities, fifteen minutes in an England shirt, about the same as the similarly initialled Jay Bothroyd, and years earlier, John Bollins. (Sorry)

We knew one thing for sure, he was a name, and with it came expectation.

Treated regally by Neil Warnock, and given the captain’s armband, this was the first of many poor and disloyal decisions made by Mr Untouchable (discarding Adel Taarabt’s ability, swapping Gorkss for Gabbidon, loaning Clint Hill to Forest) that

would later bite him in the behind.

Initially though, things were rosy; Barton’s debut, along with a few other new experienced international players against Newcastle boded well, leading to, five days later, our performance of the season at Molineux, where Wolves were, as I said over the phone at the time to my brother, ‘taken to the f***ing cleaners’.

That glorious day he scored our opener, albeit with a mishit, and was subjected to some terrible challenges by Karl Henry, remaining relatively calm, except for the three finger goal salute to disheartened Wolves followers. In tandem with Ali Faurlin (whom Barton rates highly) we battled for some great results over the next two months.

We had arrived.

For me, the honeymoon period concluded when West Brom equalised at Loftus Rd in early December, Faurlin was given a dressing down by the manager, in both private and public, reminiscent of Houllier’s ridiculous criticism of David Ginola after France failed to qualify for USA ’94 losing a lead in injury time to Bulgaria. He lost the dressing room from then on, and his and his coaching staff’s antics were soon to be scrutinised once the defeats started to mount. His constant referral to new January signings wore thin. Play with what you have.

The pivotal moment in Warnock’s QPR career came against Norwich early into the year, one incident summing up our whole season when Barton, already having put us one up, was incorrectly sent off. He had been kicked from pillar to post, and squared up to Bradley Johnson, who in Mediterranean style, feigned head contact. There are so many levels in which the decision was wrong, but it seems, he was sent off because of reputation.

The FA, kings of double standards, refused any appeal, mainly because it is likely they would have lost, but why let the facts get in the way of the respect the referee campaign. If the officials had done their jobs correctly we probably would have won the game, Neil may have kept his job, and pal Joey would not have been made the scapegoat which he now was.

Thanks Neil, but it was time to go, well done to Fernandes and his team for having the guts to do so. It was Barton’s fault though for many. His constant tweeting, funny in good times, now was somehow deemed to be undermining the club, despite much of what he was saying being right.

The size of Barton’s pay packet was now important, somehow everyone knows his salary, although I have it good authority, that whilst most would be happy to earn a year what he does in a week, it is nowhere near the usually quoted figure.

Welcome to the Premier League.

Why doesn’t he shut up? Talking about the Smiths, Friedrich Nietzsche or visiting London art galleries, he’s obviously just trying to get a future media career as a pseudo intellectual, or; is he trying to leave his chequered past behind him and move on? Certainly the novelty of becoming a first time father changes all of us. Given his past, perhaps Cassius wasn’t the wisest choice of forenames for his son.

Through the revolving door arrived Mark Hughes, great player, seemingly decent manager. We’re now in a relegation battle, but the wins don’t arrive and the red cards continue, the new boys don’t seem to gel, great on paper, s*** on grass.

Then in March, Liverpool at home, Gerrard and Suarez give a masterclass in what Premiership footballers should play like, and  two down, Rangers already look doomed. JB is having a shocker. The crowd as in past years, Rehman(correctly) and Sheron (incorrectly) vent there frustrations on our skipper and boo even his few decent touches. He is substituted to loud cheering. Somehow Dunkirk becomes El Alamein and we win. All because our Joey was replaced, and a bit of dodgy defending.

Rightly dropped for the next game, he acknowledges that he was awful, which takes a big man to admit, and he must have smiled inside when the whole eleven at Sunderland were as bad as he was the match before.

Now, with eight fixtures left, and the experts are convinced we will head back from whence we came. But the fighting spirit is evident. The man at the forefront of this is Joey Barton. Cajoling, probing and pushing he puts in several near man of the match performances which wins some fans over, if not all.

There is no doubting the team spirit as Cisse knocks in against Stoke to put us favourites to survive – watch the players reaction, they want it as much as we do.

So to Eastlands and the Champions elect, unbelievable is a well used phrase, but for once the events seemed as such.

This includes the talking point with half an hour to go.

Watching the re runs, it is clear that Carlos Tevez makes contact with Joey, provoking him into reacting in the way he did, even if  it is clear that Old Lauda neck makes a meal of it. Joey you’ve been mugged off again. The statistics say he was one of the most fouled players in the Prem, and Rangers are the most sinned against club.

I’d love to think that the superb Clint Hill, born at the same hospital as him, egged him on to even it up, although the sense of injustice will not be considered when the appeal is heard, but I like it all the same.

They’ve cheated us again, cheat back.

Obviously this is not acceptable to the ‘Football family’ and its world, but it was the last game of season with careers and, more importantly, vast amounts of money on the line. Sod role models, this is passion and that is the one feature that I admire in him.

So what if he lays into Shearer and Lineker, is this a treasonable offence?

Remember when you used to play yourself, if you ever did? Corinithian spirit wins only friends not trophies.

The club have tried to constructively dismiss him, using his salary to fund someone less volatile. Hopefully they will give him another chance one day, but that is extremely unlikely now, with the return to fitness of Ali Faurlin, and the signings of Diakite and Granero.

Napoleon returned from Elba once, perhaps Barton can return from Marseille?

I, for one, liked the gobby Scouse git and have enjoyed the ride.

I’d buy him a pint if he wasn’t now teetotal.

Mel is the author of Grounds For Divorce, an irreverent and honest look at the world of football taken during the course of the 2009/10 season. Available from Ebay and direct from