If QPR want the‘right characters’, there is no room for Barton
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images
Throughout the summer, the message coming from Loftus Road has been clear and unequivocal – the players signed by QPR to secure a return to the Premier League will be the ‘right characters’.
It is an admirable intention from Tony Fernandes, Phil Beard and Harry Redknapp, who want to sign players of substance who will atone for a disastrous two-year stay in the top flight and ensure success in the Championship.
But it is an objective which is open to scrutiny. What do they mean by ‘the right character’? What are the qualities they need? And how does a certain Joey Barton fit that description?
Redknapp’s inclusion of Barton for the season opener against Sheffield Wednesday was a surprise, matched by the manager’s post-match reaction, when he suggested that the midfielder, who all summer long has angled for a move to Marseille, could stay at QPR.
“If he stays here, fantastic, he’s not been a problem for me,” said Redknapp. “He has come in and trained hard every day and showed a lot of quality in training. He was very good and his attitude and will to win was first class.”
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Redknapp believes that Barton’s determination to win football matches alone will make him a valuable asset to QPR this season, should the midfielder’s long-anticipated move to Marseille fail to materialise. However, Barton’s history proves that Redknapp could be about to make a big mistake.
In terms of self-belief, few can match Barton, who, just last summer, said he would “walk into the England squad”.
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Nor is he a man to shirk a challenge. He is, potentially, a player who could revel in the rough and tumble of the Championship, thriving on the physicality of the second tier.
But what of the other character traits which must go hand-in-hand with that ability? What, for example, of leadership?
This is a player who failed utterly in his role of captain on the final day of the 2011-12 season at Manchester City, when he launched into a triple assault on Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.
In imploding so violently in QPR’s most crucial game of the season, Barton abandoned his club and proved that on the biggest stage, he cannot be relied upon.
Nor was it an isolated incident. Newcastle United fans will remember well Barton’s violent sliding tackle on Liverpool’s Xavi Alonso in May 2009.
Barton was red-carded, and missed Newcastle’s final three games of the season as they suffered relegation.
What, also, of loyalty? From a player who, upon QPR’s relegation in May, had this to say on Twitter: “Too many ******* among the playing staff, all brought in by [Mark] Hughes. Some good lads but not enough. Too many maggots.”
Earlier this summer, when Barton thought his yearned-for move to Marseille was a done deal, he undermined Fernandes by taking to Twitter: “It’s not up to QPR if I stay. Agreement already in place.”
For good measure, he added: “Some strange people think that I’ll be playing in the Championship next season. Good one! QPR might, I won’t! #fact.”
And what of respect for fellow players, from a player who, throughout the course of a disgraced career, has stubbed out a cigarette in a youth player’s eye, seriously assaulted another on a training pitch, and managed to spark a 10-man brawl in a pre-season friendly. And that is aside from his off-field problems.
Barton may yet get his move to Marseille if the two clubs can agree a deal.
But Redknapp clearly believes he can succeed where so many have failed in handling the most problematic of players. And that, as history has proved time and again, can only lead to trouble.
Barton is a hard worker, a grafter and committed to his own cause. But he is also volatile, plays with his own interests at heart and a liability in high-pressure situations.
If QPR want a hard-working midfielder to weigh in with the occasional challenge in midfield, then Barton has a future.
But Rangers need more than a hard worker. If they truly want the ‘right characters’ at Loftus Road, then both Fernandes and Redknapp should do all they can to finally rid QPR of one of their most controversial signings.