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Joey Barton must give shirt off his back to stay at Rangers

Scottish Premiership

By Julian Taylor

His protracted transfer and a big new beginning complete, Joey Barton regarded his summer switch to Rangers as a massive, exciting challenge. A left-field move to Scottish football was pretty much in keeping with this most fascinating of footballers, who featured in last season's PFA Championship team of the season.

Upon leaving Burnley, Barton was immediately imbued with Rangers' deep sense of history and remarked of his interest in how Bill Struth, the Ibrox manager and overlord from 1920-1954, shaped a long era of triumph.

In light of the Liverpudlian's latest misdemeanours, he must have overlooked Struth's famous quote that 'No true Ranger has ever failed in the tradition set him'.

Barton (34), having been suspended for three weeks, for an alleged row with manager Mark Warburton is on the brink.

A disjointed start to the season by the newly-promoted Light Blues was underlined by a 5-1 hammering at Celtic. All kinds of unsurprising recriminations followed.

Cod-philosopher Barton had too much to say for himself as the Gers underwent a hurtful Old Firm post-mortem, but you can only criticise fellow team-mates from a position of strength and not when you've only arrived at Ibrox where your presence can either galvanise or disrupt the existing dynamic. Clearly, the Englishman has caused significant upset.

Barton's accompanying circus has been amplified due to the current failings by both club and player. If Rangers were coasting at the top of the table, this issue would have been dealt with. The player probably bawled out and told to get back to work.

Instead, Rangers have only exacerbated the situation and kept things simmering until mid-October. And, Joey being Joey, the best part, naturally, is that he only has a new book about to be published. For 'Brand Barton' it's a commercial dream. Yet for a player who thinks of himself as a cut above, he desperately needs quiet introspection to save his Rangers career.

Perhaps for legal reasons the Ibrox outfit cannot dismiss him for breach of contract, regarding his TalkSport appearance last Friday to offer his viewpoint, a completely unwise decision.

Barton's brief contribution to Rangers has been distinctly average, mirroring the team's form.

The self-regarding midfield guru is still catching up on his fitness levels. And an inability to travel to the United States for pre-season training due to a previous criminal conviction hardly helped stretch veteran legs.

For such an intelligent man, Barton has never understood the idea that an over-inflated ego always carries a subversive threat. Additionally, his claims that Scott Brown was "nowhere near my level" was guaranteed to set a trap and add extra motivation to his determined Celtic counterpart.

Out of the available options, Rangers have taken a puzzling turn. Three weeks in isolation? Barton will probably report back in diminished physical condition. By putting this issue into the long grass, this charade has been prolonged.

The manager knows that if Barton had ambled back into training this week then his authority would have been undermined. Fair enough. A week training with the kids, with a warning of little wriggle room thereafter would probably have been the least worst option.

Barton is very much his own man, but the question is: Does he care? After taking a pay cut to leave Burnley and the Premiership, I think he does.

The most frustrating aspect for Warburton is that, when you trawl through the tweets and barbed comments, there is a decent player potentially available.

You cannot question Barton's own disappointment at how things have gone.

Warburton is still to find a consistent blend. Performances have been too flighty when a solid 4-4-2 is on hand, where Barton could screen the defence, leaving younger players like Andy Halliday, Barrie McKay and Josh Windass to push forward.

Every successful Rangers team has possessed strong characters. The famous nine-in-a-row side had the combative Richard Gough, Andy Goram, Stuart McCall, Ally McCoist, Mark Hateley and Ian Ferguson. All earned the right to a tear-up. While there is nothing wrong with dressing room opinions, Barton has, in comparison, waltzed in and spoken too soon.

Is there a way back after only a handful of games? It's doubtful, but there may be a sliver of hope.

If Barton keeps quiet - a big request, admittedly - sharpens up and shows his boss, team-mates and the Scottish game more respect, then yes. Kenny Miller and assistant manager David Weir are, furthermore, those figures most likely to influence.

Unless, of course, the controversial midfielder really did unleash a stinging tirade at Warburton. Which, if true, then the ship from Glasgow has already sailed for the Scouser.

Consequently, Barton's autobiography, No Nonsense, will likely require updating already.

Belfast Telegraph


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