The big interview – Joey Barton: I was due to have talks with Arsenal once – and yes, I’d have loved to play for them

Joey Barton

How was his meeting with Pep? What was life like in prison? And could he have been a porn star? The Burnley man – then of Rangers – told all in the October 2016 issue of FourFourTwo

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How hard was it when Everton released you as a youngster?
Tony Green, Liverpool

It was an incredibly difficult time. I was a boyhood Evertonian, standing on the terraces and waiting outside of the training ground for autographs. After being in the academy from the age of seven to 14, to be told that someone has decided you’re not big enough – not that you’re not good enough – is tough. But you either mope and confirm they were right, or you say, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.’ I think I’ve validated that I was right and they were wrong.


  • High: 2003
    Scores first senior goal in a win for Manchester City at Spurs
  • Low: 2005
    Has a spell in the Sporting Chance clinic following off-field incident

How much interaction did you have with Pep Guardiola when he was on trial at Manchester City in 2005?
Steve Zee, via Twitter

I was one of the few who spoke to him. Not many people knew who he was, which was strange, or if they did then they didn’t let on. I remember sitting down and talking to him. I’m an anorak when it comes to football: I knew who he was and how he played, as I had watched him for a very long time.

I wanted to try to farm every single bit of information I could out of him. I haven’t met him since but I keep thinking about reaching out to him, asking if he remembers me. I would be surprised if he doesn’t, if he’s as analytical as I believe him to be. Maybe I’ll need to lean on him at some point in the future if I’m a coach – maybe he could teach me a lot. I was sceptical about whether he’d take the Manchester City job because they never signed him. He was clearly good enough. Whether it was politics at the time, I don’t know.

Pep Guardiola

"Not now, Joey..."

Why did the Jamie Tandy incident happen, when you pushed a lit cigar into the City youth player’s eye?
Brian, via Twitter

The Jamie Tandy incident happened because all the players were on a Christmas night out, drinking excessively, and there were a lot of alpha males in a football environment. Sometimes alpha males misbehave, tempers flare and people do things that they regret. It happens in every city centre every Friday or Saturday night.

When you put a combination of males of a certain age, exuberance and excessive alcohol in a room together, bad things happen. Unfortunately, bad things happened that night.

Joey Barton

Photography: Martin Hunter

A lot happened when you were at Manchester City: the fracas with an Everton fan in Thailand, the clash with Ousmane Dabo at training… Do you regret the number of off-field incidents you were involved in then?
Thomas, via email

Of course you do – I regret the number of off-field incidents I’ve been involved in during my career. If you give me the opportunity to travel back in time – if you get me Marty McFly and get me in that car – I’ll go back and I’ll quite happily change all that, but I f***ing can’t.

You can’t change the past; all you can do is change the now and change the future. Do I regret some of the things that happened? Of course. But they weren’t done without justification or, in most cases, without provocation. Could I have decided not to resort to violence? Yes, but with the skill set I had at the time, it was so difficult.

Ousmane Dabo, Joey Barton

Barton was arrested for the assault on Dabo, who later branded him a "coward"

Do you look back and think that if you’d acted differently as a young player, you could have been a part of the new Manchester City?
@FellGareth, via Twitter

No, not really. It’s like saying if I’d been born with a massive d**k, would I have been a porn star? Yes, of course I would be in that position if I had been calmer during my time there, but I wasn’t, and you live by the consequences of the decisions that you made at the time.

I wanted to leave City. I’d just had enough. I had got into a number of scrapes and I thought: ‘I need to get out of here and do something new’.


  • High: 2007
    Makes England debut as late sub in a friendly vs Spain
  • Low: 2008
    Serves 77 days in prison after pleading guilty to assault

What was it like to go into the England dressing room for the first time, having criticised players for releasing autobiographies shortly after a disappointing 2006 World Cup? Is it true that Steven Gerrard left a signed book outside your room?
Jason, Leicester

Yes, he did. I’d known Steven for a while and what I said was never about him and Frank Lampard. If I’m honest, it was about Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole, as I thought: ‘What have they got to write about?’

But because I was a midfielder, and Gerrard and Lampard were both the first-choice selections for England, it suited the media to make it about that. I said what I said, I believed in it, and I thought: ‘I’ll stand behind it if anyone asks me about it.’ For people in the England squad it wasn’t really much of an issue, though. Gerrard and Lampard both just got on with it.

Joey Barton, England

Barton got 12 England minutes vs Spain in February 2007

Your only senior cap came as a late substitute against Spain. Why didn’t you play more for England?
Ben, Lincoln

It was an incredible honour to play for my country and I would have loved to have done it a lot more, but obviously my behavioural patterns at the time made that particularly difficult. I was struggling with life; struggling to cope with being me. I look back and think I was actually very fortunate to get one cap. But you know within five minutes whether you can cope with that level or not, and I knew that I could play international football.

I was struggling with life; struggling to cope with being me. I look back and think I was actually very fortunate to get one cap

Sam Allardyce said that you had let him down when you were arrested during your time at Newcastle – do you think that was a fair comment?
Dave, Jesmond

Yes, I think so. He had every right to feel that way. He had a small window of time with me at Newcastle – five months. Within two weeks of Sam signing me, I broke my foot, and there were contributing factors to that – it wasn’t through my own making. I was out for three months and I probably rushed back: I wasn’t at the level that I was at before, and I wasn’t completely comfortable with the injury. Then my form dipped and then I got dropped, so there was a chain of events that set everything off.

Did Sam go ballistic with me when I was arrested? He couldn’t, because I was remanded in Walton jail for six days. I spoke to him on the phone and, as you can imagine, he wasn’t best pleased. By the time I was released, got back to the training ground and had the opportunity to rectify things, Mike Ashley had chosen to sack him.

Sam Allardyce, Joey Barton

Barton sympathised with Big Sam's fury

What was the hardest moment during your time in prison? Were there any good moments?
James, Isle of Wight

The hardest moment was probably the first night, when you realise you’ve had your liberty taken away from you. There is no easy moment. But are you going to feel sorry for yourself, blame others, seek to justify why you behaved the way you did and not really address the pressing issues of your behaviour? Or are you going to think, ‘This isn’t going to happen again’?

My mindset was to learn from it and then not let it happen ever again. I tried to use the time there to the best advantage and, sitting here today, I think that I did.


  • High: 2011
    Scores twice as Newcastle draw 4-4 with Arsenal after trailing 4-0
  • Low: 2015
    Relegated with QPR in a 6-0 loss to former employers Manchester City
  • High: 2016
    Named in Team of the Seasonat the Football League Awards

What are your feelings towards Alan Pardew and Mike Ashley after you weren’t offered a contract extension ahead of the 2011/12 season?
Geordie Boy, via Twitter

That’s a common misconception: I was offered a contract, but I was offered it by Derek Llambias, and there were stipulations attached to that contract that I didn’t think he had the credibility to put in there. I didn’t think he had a clue what he was on about and I made that point quite directly. We didn’t sit down and negotiate again.

I was gutted, because I really enjoyed playing for the club – I felt I was playing fantastically well and I wanted to stay and play there for the rest of my days. I have got no issue with Mike Ashley. There are certain things that have happened in the past where I’ve had an opinion and spoke from the heart about what I saw going on, but I don’t carry any animosity towards him. The sad thing is that time has come along and vindicated the things that I said.

I knew that I was right at the time but people didn’t, and now they do. It’s nice when you know that you were right, and that you were right five or six years ago.

Joey Barton, Alan Pardew

On Newcastle: "I wanted to stay and play there for the rest of my days"