I read a lot of football biographies and autobiographies. And I mean, a lot. Many of them I don’t finish because they’re totally fake. They’re usually ghosted by someone who clearly hasn’t taken the trouble to get inside the head of his subject. On rare occasions as a reader I forget that the book has been ghosted. This is one of them.
This book is the real Joey Barton – and I mean that in a good way. Joey Barton has a reputation as a bit of a thug – someone who thought nothing of stabbing a cigarette into the eye of an opponent. In this book you get warts and all. But it’s far more than a mea culpa, it’s an attempt to explain who Joey Barton is – the good the bad and the sometimes very ugly. It’s also a book of what might have been. Barton played at the top levels but given his skill and strength he should have been an England regular. In the end he only played once for England. Criminal.
There’s a lot about his damaged childhood. While his childhood can go some way to explaining his attitudinal difficulties of his adult years, it doesn’t go the whole way. It was a childhood brimming with violent episodes in which he had to grow up way before he should have done. The streets of Liverpool were not an easy place to be for a boy growing up in the 1980s. He wasn’t helped by the escapades of his father, although his ‘hard nut’ reputation was certainly burnished by learning at the feet of a man who was filled with anger. Father Barton was a bit part lower league footballer who never fulfilled his undoubted potential.
Joey was determined to make it as a professional footballer even though he had several rejections in his teenage years, most notably from his boyhood club, Everton. It was Manchester City where he got his big breakthrough. He showed the determination to succeed which later developed into an ability to bounce back from the most terrible situations, many of which were completely his own fault, but some of which were not. In the book he doesn’t make excuses, he invites the reader to form their own judgement.
There’s quite a lot about Joey’s views on life, liberty and the universe, some of which is rather overwritten. He’s clearly got strong views on a multitude of issues, which was the reason he came to be invited onto Question Time a few years ago. They’re often well thought out, even if the reader disagrees with him, but there’s probably a bit too much of this in what is essentially a football autobiography. I found myself skipping a few pages when it got too much.
Possibly the most enjoyable chapters are those when Joey is at Marseille and QPR. It’s when the reader starts to think that he would possibly make a very good manager. Well, this season we’ll find out as he’s been appointed manager at Fleetwood Town in League 1. It’s his first step back into football following his long ban for betting offences. That episode happened after the book was published, although maybe it features in the paperback.
I’m going to adopt Fleetwood Town as one of the teams I now look out for. I guess that proves that I very much enjoyed the book and find Joey Barton a fascinating character.
No Nonsense by Joey Barton is published by Simon & Schuster. Buy it HERE