Newcastle United are examining employment law and Joey Barton's contract after they suspended the 26-year-old yesterday morning "until further notice".
The club are "gathering evidence" and the implication is that Newcastle may seek to terminate Barton's contract, which has three years to run at £55,000 basic per week. Regardless of Newcastle's legal procedure, Barton will never play again for the club as long as Alan Shearer is manager.
Shearer confronted Barton in the dressing room at Anfield on Sunday following Barton's red card (below) for his ugly and unnecessary lunge at Liverpool's Xabi Alonso.
Shearer told Barton that his challenge was "a coward's tackle". Barton responded with a tirade of abuse that featured him describing Shearer as a "s***" manager with "s***" tactics.
When Shearer's assistant Iain Dowie intervened, Barton called Dowie "a p****". Shearer was called the same but managed to restrain himself physically.
Although Newcastle stood by Barton when he was jailed last year for assault causing actual bodily harm, an offence that occurred after a Newcastle game at Wigan Athletic in December 2007, Shearer would not tolerate any such acquiescence. The player is unwelcome at the training ground as long as Shearer is manager.
Sam Allardyce, the Newcastle manager who signed Barton, could offer him a chance Blackburn Rovers. There are thought to be boardroom reservations at Ewood Park over Barton but Allardyce persuaded the club to sign Sunderland's El- Hadji Diouf, another character seen as combustible and one of Allardcye's previous charges.
If Newcastle were successful in sacking Barton, he would be a free agent and that would make him attractive to some
clubs. There would also be a statement of remorse from the player of the sort that has been delivered before. It is understood there were even expressions of regret from Barton not long after the row at Anfield.
Newcastle would lose out on a fee for the player but the club would make a saving of £7.5m on his wages. Barton was signed by Allardyce for £5.8m from Manchester City in June 2007.
Shearer has been and will be backed by owner Mike Ashley over Barton, and over a new disciplinary code that involves a huge jump in fines for lateness.
Newcastle's previous fines had been minimal but now any player late for a meeting, training or travel will have 10% of their weekly salary deducted. That increases to 20% for a second offence and 40% for a third. Additional fines are at Shearer's discretion and this approach has left some players disgruntled.
But others support it and defender Habib Beye yesterday voiced his hope that Shearer will stay next season.
"He is here for eight games — I understand that," Beye said of Shearer. "He's here to keep the club in the Premiership. But if we stay in the Premiership, and we have the opportunity to build something good, hopefully he will stay."