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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
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How close did you really come to joining Arsenal instead of QPR? Did you ever speak to Arsene Wenger?
‘Warburton Is Magic’, via Twitter

No, intermediaries spoke on their behalf. There was definitely some low-level interest, and before I got sent off against Arsenal, when the thing with Gervinho happened, I was due to hold some form of discussions with them. But then it never came to be. Would I have liked to have played for Arsenal? Of course. Who wouldn’t?

There was definitely some low-level interest from Arsenal, and before I got sent off against them when the thing with Gervinho happened, I was due to hold some form of discussions

What was going through your head when you tried to attack half of the Manchester City team on the day they won the Premier League?
Shane Burns, via Twitter

The overriding priority was QPR getting a result to stay in the league. We equalised, then I checked [Carlos] Tevez’s run and he attempted to punch me in the face. It’s weird how people get away from that. I got up, realised that both the linesman and Mike Dean hadn’t seen it, felt incredibly aggrieved and decided to take the law into my own hands and level it up. 

I shouldn’t have done that. I levelled the scores: it’s 1-0 to Tevez – my elbow on him makes it 1-1. But that was spotted by the linesman and, quite coldly, I decided that as I’d been sent off, it would be a great idea to try to take one of their players with me, because that would give my team the opportunity to stay in the league. I just shouldn’t have got involved in that. Now, I would not have reacted to Tevez and he probably would have got done retrospectively by the FA.

Having spent a season in France on loan at Marseille, do you think more English players should play abroad?
Paul Watson, via Twitter

It’s difficult, because the financial power is in the Premier League. Our best players aren’t necessarily going to go abroad to be paid less. But has it improved Gareth Bale as a player? Of course it has.

I loved it at Marseille. I went out there on the back of a 12-game ban – I was a pariah in England – but the people of the city embraced me and I had a fantastic year there that I will never forget.

How much stick did you get for your infamous French accent in a press conference during your time there?
Steven, Widnes

My brother and a mate of mine were at the back of the room, laughing their heads off, after about 10 minutes of me talking like someone from ’Allo ’Allo. I was in a bubble in France and it was only when it was picked up back in England that I really realised the absurdity of it. I was just doing my best to try and communicate, but obviously it looked totally ridiculous. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

How much did Zlatan Ibrahimovic hate you calling him ‘Big Nose’ when you played for Marseille in Le Classique against PSG?
Ed, Uxbridge

I don’t know – you should ask him now he’s in the Premier League! [Laughs] That goes on all the time on the pitch, although maybe not as in-your-face as that. Unluckily the cameras picked up on it. We were having a minor disagreement, it got personal and you react. I was just making an observation. He has got a big nose.

You played extremely well for Burnley last season in helping them to gain promotion. Why did you move to Rangers instead of having another season in the Premier League?
Thomas Lethardy, via Twitter

The Burnley fans are fully aware of how much I enjoyed being there. We lifted the Championship trophy and it was a fantastic group of players with great staff – Sean Dyche is right up there in the top drawer of managers I’ve played for. Burnley are a great club.

But in life you get presented with opportunities and sometimes you can’t afford to turn them down, or you will regret it for the rest of your days. I knew I could either play in the Premier League for Burnley or have one opportunity to play for a club like Rangers, back in the top flight after a turbulent period.

Joey Barton, Rangers

Barton's spell with Rangers ended abruptly after a training ground bust-up with Andy Halliday

This is a chance to put Rangers back at the top table of Scottish football and to be part of something far greater than my own personal career. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, but inside me lies a competitive animal. I wanted to feel the pressure. At Marseille I’d had the pressure of trying to win a title, coming up short and finishing second. This is a place where I can get back in touch with that.

Do you still support Celtic?
BoroKnicks, via Twitter

I don’t think I’ve ever supported Celtic. I’m a born-and-bred Evertonian and I’ve not met any true football fan who supports two teams. My full name is Joseph Anthony, I went to St Agnes Primary School and St Thomas a Becket Secondary School, and my grandmother is a staunch Roman Catholic of Irish heritage. So when Rangers play Celtic, the same way as when Barcelona play Real Madrid, you pick a side based on what’s going on around you. Things like that are always an issue until the first game, then people really know which side of the divide you stand on.

I don’t think I’ve ever supported Celtic. I’m a born-and-bred Evertonian and I’ve not met any true football fan who supports two teams

Which tweets do you enjoy more: quoting Nietzsche or describing Thiago Silva as an “overweight ladyboy”?
Joe, Nottingham

They usually get me in trouble, those ones! [Laughs] The Nietzsche quote was two-and-a-half years ago. You see stuff that resonates with you and think, ‘I’m going to share that’. It said less about me than it did about society, because people were saying: “You’re a footballer – why are you tweeting about that?” It was breaking down stereotypes and it was an incredibly positive thing, as people were talking about Nietzsche who ordinarily wouldn’t be talking about him.

Who’s your favourite philosopher? You can’t say Ashley Barnes!
David Jessop, Brighouse

Yes, er, Ashley’s a strange philosopher. I would have to say Epicurus. When I was doing my degree, he was the one who really resonated with me. He didn’t have any tremendous philosophical point; it was just that there is no right way, and the key to everything is somewhere in the middle. Philosophy is a great discipline – it should be on the school curriculum.

It’s far more important than religious education and some of the other silly topics they have on there, based on the strange ideas of strange people from thousands of years ago. I’ll probably upset everyone who has ever been to church, but I think that philosophy teaches you the art of understanding. You have a subject matter and you try to look at it from different angles until you formulate an opinion. If more people did that, we would make more rational decisions and the world would be a better place.

Ever considered a life in politics?
Michael, Reading

No. Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to get civil servant money and superstar press intrusion into your life? If I can get superstar money I’ll take superstar press intrusion, but I’m not having civil servant money to take superstar press intrusion. It’s an interesting profession, but I have absolutely no ambition to be a part of it. I look at them and think, ‘Fair play to you’.

This feature originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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