Barton has long been a perfect example to those who think that footballers are all overpaid layabouts with more money than sense. There have been other examples (Ashley Young's pre-match rituals are the most recent antics to hit the headlines) but there can't have been a more consistent idiot in the history of the Premier League.
Off the top of one's head, let's see. The stubbing out of a cigar in a team-mate's face. Being sent home of a pre-season tour for hitting a fifteen year old boy before a fight with his team-mate in a hotel bar. Breaking a pedestrian's leg in a car accident. Flashing his arse to a section of the Everton faithful after an away game. Arrest and an impending court case for ABH against a team-mate in a training session. Three cousins and one brother in prison on assorted assault, GBH and murder counts.
Nice fella, this one.
Eschewing a golden opportunity to present himself as a likeable scally, regretful and penitent, he spent the whole interview defending his actions and portraying himself as a victim of circumstance and of press focus. On more than one occasion, he could be heard complaining about the fact that the press pick on him over certain incidents which perhaps they wouldn't with other players. "I know it's becuase of my reputation", he says, without accepting in the slightest that his catalogue of immature and inane behaviour is exactly the thing that has generated this reputation in the first place.
Rather than presenting himself as a victim - an easy target for the tabloids - he could easily have started to rebuild or alter his well-earned reputation by being conciliatory, taking responsibility for his mistakes and being remorseful about them.
Instead, he defended himself and seems to be in some sort of delusional denial that he's ever done anything wrong. He's prepared to go to prison to defend the allegations that he assualted team-mate Ousmane Dabo, he did hit the 15 year old but it was all in self-defence, he bit Richard Dunne after Dunne tried to make him apologise to the boy and whilst the boys father was punching him. All completely innocent scenarios blown out of proportion by the tabloid press.
I didn't like Barton before, and I certainly don't like him now. I understand he is receiving counselling from Tony Adams' institute about his behaviour, but a leopard rarely changes his spots. Whatever he might claim, through a series of moronic and violent acts he has built a reputation for being a troublemaker, and if this weeks attack on his own home support is anything to go by, he isn't likely to change any time soon.
I know that the reality is that no-one in football really cares about morals, especially if you're a half decent player. As with a lot of professions, though, it is the actions of a small minority that cultivate the opinion of the profession as a whole. Being in financial services, I know this to be true more than most! In footballing terms, Barton can count himself as the chief protagonist in that minority. Why he can't learn from his mistakes, apologise for his idiocy and move on is beyond me.