Mark Hughes must decide if Joey Barton warrants place in QPR squad
The headline will come from the number of games Joey Barton will serve in suspension for his actions at Manchester City on the final day of the season. Twelve. The ban is the longest ever handed out in the English game for altercations with the opposition.
Paul Davis was an Arsenal player back in 1988 when he smashed the jaw of Glenn Cockerill with a punch. He sat on the sidelines for nine games. Luis Suarez was banned for eight for racial abuse of Patrice Evra.
Paolo Di Canio (11) and David Prutton (10), were both punished for pushing referees, and Eric Cantona served nine months away from football for karate-kicking a fan. Roy Keane (words), Mark Bosnich (drugs) and Rio Ferdinand (missing a drugs test) also went for months, but not for what they did to those they were playing against. Barton's was, and there should be plenty of time for contemplation of that fact as the end of October approaches, by which time, in theory at least, he will be able to recommence his career.
When the hammer came down yesterday afternoon at half past six, by which time Barton had sped away from Wembley after a seven-and-a-half-hour hearing, the punishment was four games for his second red of the season, the elbow on Carlos Tevez. Then came a further eight games for the two charges of violent conduct, one for the knee into the back of Sergio Aguero and another for the headbutt aimed at Vincent Kompany.
It is as uncomfortable to write as it was to watch.
The real wreckage, however, is not in the length of ban or the period of time in which Barton will not be allowed to play. It is now about the period when he will be allowed to play. A second hearing, this time convoked by his employers, Queen's Park Rangers, will begin now the outcome of the FA's is known. This does not promise to be any more pleasant or easy going than that which took place yesterday, given that there would not necessarily have been many tears shed at Loftus Road for the length of ban.
The harsh reality for a club such as QPR, and there is no disrespect meant here, is that they cannot carry a player who will not be able to play for them until the nights are closing in. It could be a winter of discontent that the former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder faces, as he turns 30.
He may not even be among the Premier League squad of 25 at the season's start, for a club who cannot afford to be a player short for the start of their second campaign in the top flight in the last 16 years.
In April he was involved in a half-time row with his club captain, Shaun Derry, in the dressing room at West Bromwich Albion. That had not helped his standing with some team-mates before the Etihad incident.
Where now is the question, and it may well be one that is no longer in his hands.