Monday 18 December 2017

Violent background explored as Barton cuts close to bone

Book review - Alan Aherne

Joey Barton - No Nonsense
Joey Barton - No Nonsense

As an avid reader, I'm a firm believer in the old saying that 'books feed your head'.

Apart from the obvious entertainment value provided, they force us to contemplate issues that otherwise wouldn't necessarily occupy the mind.

At certain times it mightn't be something of a far-reaching nature. For example, last week in this column I was pondering the extent to which tradition plays a part in the success of the Kerry footballers, hardly an earth-shattering matter one way or the other.

However, the subject of this latest review leads me to pose a far more relevant question: to what extent does one's upbringing and early childhood experiences shape an individual's adult life?

There can scarcely be a more appropriate sportsman to use as a test case than English footballer Joey Barton who is more notorious for some of his off-field exploits than for his achievements inside the white lines.

The first positive to note from 'No Nonsense - The Autobiography' is that, unsurprisingly, the outspoken Evertonian has plenty to say and isn't afraid to ruffle any feathers within the game.

This is an important consideration because so many of these offerings tend to be bland, safe and generally put together purely as a money-making exercise.

Before reading this book I regarded Barton as a character who was difficult to like.

And to be perfectly honest, I felt the exact same way afterwards. However, the essential difference was that at least I had an enhanced understanding of the reasons behind some of Barton's volatile behaviour, with a spell in prison for assault in a street brawl among his misdemeanours not to mention a very poor disciplinary record on the pitch.

Barton grew up in a rough, tough environment in a crime-ridden Liverpool estate, and here's just one example of a childhood experience that shaped his character:

As a youngster he was mauled by an Alsatian in a local park and required surgery on a facial injury. His father went immediately to the scene where he was disgusted to discover the dog still roaming free.

His solution was to get back into his car, run the four-legged assailant down, and then reverse over him just to make sure he was dead.

He then tracked down the owner and let him know in no uncertain terms of the consequences if the matter was pursued through the police.

Barton Snr. had the respect of the entire estate because he was regarded as the best footballer in the area, playing non-league to a fairly high level.

Furthermore, the Bartons had a reputation as a family not to be messed with, so the dog owner knew better than to incur their wrath even more.

In one sense that was merely the tip of the iceberg, as Barton's brother was present for a racially-motivated attack which ended with his cousin killing a black teenager with an axe driven through his head.

Now, at 34 years of age, many of the rough edges have been knocked off the current Rangers footballer, and there is a surprising depth to his character as he has studied philosophy, has a thirst for knowledge, and loves reading.

I still hadn't warmed to his character by the end of this book though, but I did find it a compelling read.

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