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      Saturday 01, September 2012


      Joey Barton is a character many have already written their own synopsis for. His career as a professional footballer has been punctuated by various negative incidents on and off the pitch while outspoken views and engaging in debate via Twitter and more recently, his own website, has further fuelled media interest and judgement. As Joey bids adieu to the Premiership, setting off for a one year loan deal with Marseille, Lowdown thought it was time we ditched the labels and let the man speak for himself.

      The new website looks impressive. What's the idea/inspiration behind it?

      Thanks. It’s taken a lot of work and time, I’ve been working on it for almost 12 months now. I was conscious of the standard footballer website and wanted to re-engage with proper football fans. It gives me a platform to talk about things that are important to me, and also gives the public an opportunity to voice their feelings, positive or negative across a variety of topics. I’m on a learning experience, aren’t we all? Delving into some of the topics such as libel reform, Hillsborough and consumerism has provoked some great feedback and no doubt helped me on my journey.

      Your twitter account has over 1.65 million followers. Why do you think it has become so popular so quickly?

      I’m not really sure to be honest. When I originally started with Twitter I saw it as a mouthpiece for me to express my views but there was no way I could ever have imagined to have that many followers. I was sick of the media portraying me in a certain manner. Some of the comments were deserved based on past misdemeanours, but I thought, hey the public portrays me as this caveman neanderthal who goes around punching people and eating raw meat, therefore their sentiment towards me can’t get any worse, so why not give it a try. I say exactly what I think on the site which I guess is the appeal. Many players have commercial relationships which act as filters for what they really want to say. I just tell it how it I see it, I’m not always right obviously but who is?!

      You regularly engage in online ‘debates’ with people like Piers Morgan. Are you trying to achieve something or is it just entertainment?

      I actually really like Piers. When I first began interacting with him I saw him as the pompous silver spoon toff, however, the more I’ve engaged with him I’ve found him a funny guy. He enjoys the banter and gives as much stick out as he takes. He is obviously a big Arsenal fan and I’ve been something of a thorn in their side over the duration of my career so I’m sure his feelings to be were not the warmest! It is funny and a credit to Twitter that people are now so accessible so you can challenge each other, learn and cultivate positive relationships with the guys you could never imagine getting along with before.

      Do you think some people resent a footballer having strong opinions on a variety of subjects or alternatively is it a class issue?

      Most definitely, football is a working class sport and the public often resent change. I remember quoting Nietzsche and people actually thinking that the account was some sort of parody. How dare I quote philosophers as I am surely illiterate being a footballer from a working class background. It is really funny, I think the answer to the question is both. Footballers are supposed to speak when spoken to and working class people are frowned upon for trying to educate themselves.

      Do you feel the ‘celebrity’ status associated with being a high profile footballer in the modern game attaches more influence than previous generations? Do you feel a sense of responsibility as a professional footballer and if so, how do you hope to influence those looking to you for inspiration?

      I would say yes most definitely, in the past footballers could go to the pub the day before a game then get up and play the next day. In fact, these are now stories that go down in folklore. Nowadays if you step out of line there is a camera phone flashing and it is instantly all over social media. You will remember the image of my other half and I outside Garlands recently doing the rounds with us both looking quite dishevelled. There is a responsibility which comes with the territory, I struggled with this in my younger days. I had signed up to be a footballer, I did not sign up to be a role model, however, you have to embrace the latter. It is a gift to have the ability to make a youngster’s day by signing an autograph. You may have read my blog on the Olympics on my website, it is time that the gulf between fan and player was broken, I feel my website has taken steps from my side to this.

      Tom Daley has been in the news this week over dealings with trolls. You seem to get more than your fair share of grief online. Does it bother you and how do you deal with it?

      I saw this and thought it was a terrible thing to say to anyone, however, nothing really shocks me these days. Tom was a credit to team GB in the games and I really warmed to him after watching the documentary about his preparation through the beeb. I did think it was crazy to have a police investigation into the tweet thought, if you scoured my feed you would have to lock up 90 per cent of the UK for abuse so it is tough to control.  If you are on Twitter you have to take the rough with the smooth, you need a thick skin. People tweeted me some disgusting things when my Mrs was pregnant and you have to just feel sorry for them rather than offer them any rise to their unhappy lives. This is another reason for my website. Trolls are often not intelligent enough to log in and make an intuitive comment without expletives (which are blocked on the site) so they can stay on Twitter and batter me all they like. It will not affect my life.

      What, over the years, has impacted on your career both positively and negatively? Looking back, would you change anything?

      Wow that is a tough one. There have been many influences over the years. There are the obvious ones such as my nan and my dad. Georgia has been my support mechanism over the last 12 months with all of the drama surrounding said incidents as well as the arrival of Cassius. Negatively, alcohol has been an issue I have battled quite publicly. I am proud to be clean these days and I still attend AA meetings when I have the time. When I look at my biggest mistakes many have alcohol as the common denominator. Peter Kay has been another fantastic influence over me, he supported me through prison and my subsequent recovery and we will still meet often to reminisce and maintain my learning process.

      Who or what inspires you?

      Cassius inspires me, it is funny what a little one does to you. You can never understand it until it happens to you yourself. It puts your own life into perspective and the things that bothered you in the past do not seem to so much, they seem silly to worry about when you have a kid. No matter how bad your day is you can always go home and your lad loves you all the same no matter what you have done.

      What is on your playlist at the moment?

      I have been listening to The Maccabees, ‘Given to the Wild’ album recently, they are a class act. It has a different feel to it and its sound equally picks me up as it’s so lyrically emotive. Arcade Fire has been a mainstay on the playlist for the last 12 months now, ‘The Suburbs’ is a ridiculously good album and they are such entertainers. I watched them live in Hyde Park last year and it was some experience. Arctic Monkeys are always there or thereabouts, they just speak to my generation so it is so relatable. I watched Darwin Deez in Glastonbury last year too and I think they are ones to watch, they have a similar sound to The Strokes and when they danced to Miike Snow after their show at Glasto they had me won over.

      How has where you come from contributed to where you are today, as a person and in your career?
      My background is football mad. When I was a kid growing up in Huyton I used to hand around the streets and my nan used to make me be home for 10pm. I used to stay out playing footy as long as I could then I would race home as quickly as I could, normally leaving wherever I was around five minutes before so would have to cover a certain element of distance in order to be in on time and avoid a clip around the ears from my nan. I attribute this to my fitness levels today, I cover as much ground as anyone else and believe my upbringing of constantly running with the football enables me to do this.  

      If you were responsible for ‘marketing’ Liverpool, what elements would you focus on?

      I think this is getting easier nowadays, the city is truly remarkable and will always be home to me. Everytime I come home it surprises me how quickly things are moving on. The waterfront looks tremendous but it is our music culture which I would focus on. I mean come on, The Beatles, arguably the best band of all time are from OUR city. We also have The La's who I love and the list could really go on. You cannot buy heritage and history and Liverpool has buckets of both.

      The Guardian's 'Secret Footballer' shows an alternative side to the glamour - does the public misunderstand the reality of being a modern footballer?

      I think this is a tough one as ‘footballer’ covers such a broad spectrum of people. They are not all the same, in the way bankers, builders etc are not all the same. A minority will affect the judgement of the majority, but lets be honest, mainstream press and particularly red tops do not want to indoctrinate the public with stories about a footballer putting the little ‘un to bed on a Saturday night after a game. One incident will mar the reputation of all the others for a month. If a banker is arrested for assault are all bankers criminals? No. If a footballer is, the generalisation seems to gather weight much quicker. The secret footballer is just one footballer, he is obviously one of the more intelligent but there are many like him, many different to him too but it normally makes a very OK read.

      The culmination of British athletes' sacrifices and hard work has been great successes in the recent games - how do you see the ratio of work/reward in football comparing?

      I think it is relatively the same. People have the idea that being a footballer is easy and that you are born with an ability to play football. You are not, read the book ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed. Becoming a footballer is the culmination of thousands of hours of practice, the same way becoming an athlete is. I am not taking anything away from these athletes, the sacrifices they make are astronomical. But to make it to elite level at any sport you have to make many sacrifices. While my friends were out drinking I was out running lamp posts. The common conception that footballers are born to make it is nonsensical in my opinion. Hard work is what enables anybody to be at the top level in whatever route they choose.

      Some perceive you as a thug on and off the pitch. Do you see this as justified or totally wrong?

      To be honest, I really couldn’t care less about how I am branded. Until anybody meets me they cannot make these assumptions. Remember when you cross the white line in any sport you will find few that behave in exactly the same manner on and off the football pitch. I have an accountability to myself and my family, as long as I can look at myself in the mirror every day and be truly proud of the man that I have become, that is all that matters.