There is something slightly amiss with the shift in Joey Barton’s personality in the eyes of both the media and the general public.
Barton’s perception has gone from that of an irrational thug to, in the words of the twittersphere:
“An intelligent, thoughtful young man more than most footballers on here (Twitter).”
At this moment in time, comments of this ilk about Barton are not difficult to find. This seems odd, especially when you consider this brief overview of Barton’s disciplinary record and his once infamous bad boy image.
Some choice moments from Barton’s past have involved:
- Stubbing a lit cigar out in a youth player’s eye at the MCFC Christmas party
- Being sent home from a tour of Thailand for assaulting a 15 year old Everton supporter
- Exposing his backside to Everton fans following an injury time equaliser
- Being fined for assaulting teammate Ousmane Dabo during training
- Serving 77 days in prison for assaulting a man outside McDonald’s at five in the morning
Now read two of Barton’s most recent tweets:
Without being flippant, Barton’s activity on Twitter and his previous reputation simply don’t add up. It is bizarre to imagine the person retweeting quotes from a 19th century German philosopher, is the same involved in this vicious attack on the streets of Liverpool.
Immediately then, it would appear fair to argue one of three things:
(1) For years, Joey Barton has being a misunderstood and somewhat tormented genius
(2) Barton has matured into a responsible, level-headed professional
(3) Joey Barton has enlisted professionals to help rebuild an almost ruined reputation
If we are to assume the latter, then it would be interesting to observe how they have pulled off this coup in shaping public opinion.
And, given this, it is interesting to speculate on how much autonomy they have over Barton in his rebranding.
It seems there have been three key points in the campaign; the growing of his moustasche, his sudden affinity with British popular music and his civility on the social media platform Twitter.
The earliest point public opinion on Barton began to shift was tash-gate, which he began sporting post-Newcastle’s exile from the Premier League.
The moustache cast Barton in a mischievous, scamp-like light; a far cry from the cigar-wielding hot-head of years gone bye. It demontrated Barton had matured and was perhaps was no longer prone to going loco on an opponent/a teammate/a member of the public at any given moment.
The tash could only go some way to rebranding Barton, who still courted controversy by punching Mortem Ganmst Petersen and allegedly directing homophobic remarks at Fernando Torres.
The genius in the campaign may be the way Barton has aligned himself with icons of popular music. Barton, or the powers-that-be, have been all too aware of the way we project ourselves through popular culture and in particular, icons of popular music.
Prior to this year it is fair to say that many would not have had Barton down as a card-carrying Morrisey fan, nor a bastion of underground popular music.
His affinity for The Smiths itself seems a carefully selected choice. Morrissey has long been the poster-boy of those who perceive themselves to be alienated intellectuals. One could understand why Joseph may want to align himself with this image.
All of Barton’s day-to-day Twitter activity is used to reinforce the repositioning of his image and contribute significantly to his overall rebranding.
From the use of his full name (Joseph Barton), to the quasi-patriotic Smiths lyric in place of his Bio.
More interesting than this though, is how throughout the current turmoil surrounding the Magpies, the once irrational thug has become a pillar of diplomacy, as well as oddly philosophical.
Forgive me then for being suspicious that there may being underhand tactics being employed in the Barton camp.
Everything about Barton at the minute is just a little bit too perfect.
Regardless of whether there are PR consultants pulling the strings, one has to acknowledge a shrewdness on Barton’s part to recognise his old self wasn’t making any friends and was detrimenting his career.
At best, his change in image could we attributed to him trying to engineer a move to a top four club. At worst it has gone some way to make him somewhat more palatable to the general public.
*Disclaimer* This post is essentially, merely speculation. In no way do I want to state as fact that Barton has had his reputation managed professionally, nor am I saying he does not have the right to.