There are many reasons you may choose to hate Joey Barton. Let us list them....

There are many reasons you may choose to hate Joey Barton. Let us list them.

First and foremost are the various violent incidents he has perpetrated, both on and off a football field. More often than not Barton’s violence, especially away from football, is not your ordinary, run of the mill violence that other footballers may occasionally find themselves embroiled in – the traditional scuffle outside a nightclub, or handbags at 12 paces on the training ground. Joey’s acts of aggression are often set apart from such almost expected behaviour by their viciousness, cal

lousness, and unpredictability, and are well-documented. At Manchester City’s Christmas Party in 2004 Barton stubbed out a cigar in the eye of City youth player Jamie Tandy. In 2007 there was an assault on another teammate, Ousmane Dabo, who suffered a detached retina and lost consciousness several times after being attacked by Barton. And in 2008 he was sentenced to six months in prison for assault after CCTV showed him punching a man in the face 20 times in Liverpool city centre.

Even just considered as a footballer, Barton doesn’t exactly invite adoration. He has a vastly inflated sense of his own self-worth as a player – he appears to feel he should be playing for a Champions’ League club week-in-week-out, but in truth he probably found he level at relegation-bothering Queen’s Park Rangers, and only time will tell how he fares at Marseille. He is outspoken on all manner of subjects (usually via Twitter) which can sometimes make him look stupid and/or vindictive (he predicted that old club Newcastle would be relegated after they let him go on a free transfer – instead they qualified for Europe), but can also sometimes hint at a man who is capable of independent thought, and even humour (mocking the flood of autobiographies from England’s over-hyped ‘stars’ after they were dumped out of the 2006 World Cup Barton quipped: “I played like shit. Here’s my book.”) Many may not like or agree with much of what he says, but others might find it refreshing to see a footballer who is not afraid to speak his mind, in contrast to the media-managed automatons that are the majority of professional footballers.

Anyway, if you want to hate him for any of the above, I wouldn’t begrudge you. As an Arsenal fan my personal grievance with Joey Barton would be the hypocritical instances of play-acting, a footballing no-no which he is one the first to criticise in others. After getting Gervinho sent off on the first day of the 2011-12 season by way of an astonishing routine of provocation and theatrics, I couldn’t help but see a beautifully symmetric poetic justice in the way he was sent off for lashing out at almost the entire Manchester City team after a far smaller degree of provocation in the final game of last season.

What I do take issue with however, is those who use his apparent interest in philosophy as a stick to beat him with and belittle him.

His tendency to tweet quotes from heavyweight philosophers such as Nietzsche has led to accusations of preening pretentiousness; that he is merely trying to cultivate an image as an intellectual. Now this may well be true to some degree, but I find it harsh that it should be the automatic assumption.

A common criticism of Barton’s philosophy tweets and quotes is that “he just got it from Google”. Well, so what? How else do people find stuff out and learn in this day and age? The idea that information gleaned ‘from Google’ is somehow less worthy than if it’s read from an actual book smacks of elitism.  Either way, he would have to have read it somewhere. Or do you need to derive all the ideas of Descartes and Nietzsche yourself from first principles to prove you deserve to be taken seriously when displaying an interest in Philosophy?

So why is poor Joey treated this way? As it happens, there is an interesting contrast to be made with another footballer with a tendency to violent behaviour who wasn’t as good as he thought he was (in my opinion),and who coincidentally (or not?) also had a fondness for philosophy and deep thought – Eric Cantona. His nonsensical, pseudo-gnomic “when the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea…” remark has seen him lauded as a renegade and some kind of philosopher-warrior-king (mostly by United fans, to be fair).

So why the big difference? It seems to me that it must be because Cantona’s nonsensical quips were delivered with all the gravitas of a Gallic accent - an acceptable one to philosophise in, particularly when compared with Barton’s squeaky, high-pitched Scouse.

So my point, at the end of all this long-windedness, is this: football’s chattering classes, even from supposedly left-wing organs such as the Guardian (who constantly mock Barton’s fondness for philosophy on their pages and on their podcast) can’t reconcile themselves to idea of English working class people being interested in something as traditionally high-minded and elitist as philosophy.

For me though, as someone who is equally interested in philosophy and football, and believes that philosophy and working-class culture (including football) shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, this is a great shame – if Barton’s interest, however it came about and manifests itself, wasn’t ridiculed so much, it may actually lead to other working-class people taking an interest in such things, and who knows, maybe even thinking for themselves.