Joey Barton rants on Twitter to deflect his red card shame
QPR captain vents at 'prick' Shearer and 'odious toad' Lineker – but his distraction policy has worked
TWO DAYS ago, Joey Barton elbowed one man in the face, kicked another to the ground and attempted to head butt a third. If the incident had happened outside a pub rather than on a football pitch, he would be facing criminal charges. Yet what is everyone talking about today? His Twitter feed.
The QPR captain has a curious relationship with the social network. Over the last 18 months, he has wowed the media elite by posting Nietzschean quotes and lyrics from The Smiths. Soon Barton's chequered past, including a prison spell and a series of unpleasant training-ground bust-ups, was forgotten and an appearance on Newsnight earlier this month crowned the 29-year-old's transition from thug to philosopher.
Then came Sunday, and Barton's spectacular meltdown against Manchester City as QPR battled against relegation. His behaviour was enough to warrant three red cards, let alone one. Back in the dog house for his conduct on the pitch, it seems Barton is once again employing his favourite smoke screen – Twitter.
First came a half-felt apology, which can broadly be summarised as "who gives a f*ck, we are safe", to quote Barton himself, which concentrated on QPR's survival in the Premier League. Then came a blistering attack on the presenters of Match of the Day who dared to criticise him on camera.
Alan Shearer was first in the firing line. "I really don't like that prick, in fact I honestly despise him," Barton wrote of the man who briefly managed him at Newcastle in 2009. "I'd take it off [Alan] Hansen and @GaryLineker but not from that bell, same fella that stamped on Neil Lennon, then threatened FA if they banned him."
But when Gary Lineker took him to task he did quite the opposite of accepting the criticism. Justifying his rant with the fact that Shearer had got "personal", Barton then got very personal with Lineker. "Do you wanna go there publicly 'Mr Squeaky Clean'?" he tweeted to Lineker. "Think you should have a look in that vast closet of skeletons before you respond."
He continued: "I know a lot about THAT side to you the people don't and won't bat an eye lid at exposing you. So mind your manners Squeaky... now back under your stone you odious little toad."
Understandably, the online fireworks have attracted the attention of the national papers. Barton's eye for a neat insult ensured that. Yet as his tweets went viral, few people noticed that the FA had charged him with violent conduct over his actions at the weekend.
He now faces a ban that may stretch for almost a third of next year's season. Long enough on the sidelines to tweet his way back into the Newsnight studio? Perhaps. By then, people won't be talking about what Barton actually did on the pitch – in fact, just 48 hours after the incident, his distractions on Twitter have already ensured exactly that.