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Barton - think!

Robbo Robson | 11:13 UK time, Thursday, 23 October 2008

First of all, apologies to anyone who's expecting jokes this week. (Yes, I can hear some of you spitting out your cappuccino froth all over your computer screen and smirking 'No change there then.') Thing is, I'm right miffed this week. Anyone else get tired of the hypocrisy of sportsmen? I bloody do...

Fergie gives a matchless response to the fact that Berbatov's two goals v Celtic were offside. Something to the effect that it was nice for his team to get a decision for a change. I mean can't this man button it? The bloody nerve!

Anyone else suddenly go back in their mind to Rob 'Foul is fair and fair is foul' Styles's decision following Jlloyd Samuel's perfect tackle on the gelled tumbler a few weeks back? Don't be such a whingeing ninny, Ferguson.

Then there's KP. I like KP and I like his press conferences. But this upcoming cash cow of a match is no place to start protesting that the media are all talking about the money.

Kevin, son, the whole point of the Stanford charade is the money. If it wasn't for the rivers of cash you're going to be able to shower your loved ones in should you win, there'd be no game. Never has the phrase 'it's just not cricket' ever been so appropriate.

I mean I've got nothing against anyone earning a million dollars if some loaded chump is willing to dole it out, but the pretence that it's not why the players are out there is a flaming insult to our intelligence. I'm sorry to hear KP's pals are on the breadline but hey, if you beat the Caribbean Mercenaries XI then you can pay off their mortgages for them, can't you, mate?

In fact, if it's really not about the money then you can send 90% of your winnings to some peasant farmers in Zimbabwe and feel a little better about the whole thing. Or just front up. No one minds. We'd all do the same. Just be honest about it, like Alistair Cook was until the coach Moores sort of undermined him. You don't want to tell the truth, Cooky... that'll never do.

Celtic's manager responded to the offsides at Old Trafford with a little more perspective. It's not like they wouldn't have got beat any road, so why moan? But then Strachan is a funny and self-aware bloke and his attitude isn't one of them 'why do they always pick on me?' types.

Then we come to the strangest press conference of the week with that reprobate Barton. Not quite sure how but the bloke's one of the more articulate English footballers around. He says he's not been happy with his form recently but he's got more form than the rest of the Premier League put together.

Hearing Keegan bleat for mercy on his behalf rather stuck in a lot of people's throats - certainly it seems that sportsmen get a lot more bleeding rope than most employees. Anyone else in Joey's position would be trudging in line at the jobcentre behind the scabby merchant bankers and the lank-mulleted young estate agents (now they've had to economise on the 'product' for their hair).

But then maybe Kev's a better man than the rest of us. What you can't deny is Barton's frankness when it comes to accepting he's been a violent little plank and deserves everything that's come his way.

The idea of him being 'a shining beacon' for kids everywhere is harder to swallow than a double packet of Jacob's cream crackers, but at least the lad's showing aspirations for summat more than a brace at the JJB and a skinful at some Manc club or other.

Personally I don't see why Barton can't be a shining beacon, or rather a bright red warning light, by being banned from football for another year and going round the country explaining to wannabe footballing show-ponies why he's been cold-shouldered.

But the lad knows he's in the last chance saloon - and he's only allowed an apple and mango J2O while he's there, poor lamb. Ten months off the booze is an impressive start although it does help that they closed the honesty bar at Strangeways a while back.

So while Barton is very very very lucky to have a 17th chance offered him, at least he seems to realise that this is it and the next time he loses it it's all over for sure.

I dunno about you but maybe there's a whole swathe of pinstriped yuppies who might be well-advised to hold a similar press conference and explain why they've trounced the savings and loans of the people of this country by playing silly beggars with stuff that's not their own, the dozy bankers. But as I say, the richer you are in this country the less you have to apologise for your sins.

So I for one will lay off the Scouse tinderbox and hope that we never hear from him again. Actions speak louder than words, Joey. We need proof - and I don't mean 40% proof - that you can turn this around.

But let's just hope that if he does come off the rails again there won't be some numpty League Two no-marks ready to bail him out. Any more horrors and the bloke gets to do what every other ex-con should do - get a proper job.

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