The dressing room is now divided, with no end in sight. One player has alienated himself, his team-mates, his manager and even some of the fans, but he’s too expensive to pay off. Other players are clearly out of their depth or past it, but big wages means the club is stuck with them too.
In the meantime, the club is going around rattling the beggar’s cup, trying to secure soft loans just to get them through the season. Things on the park are grim as performances fall way below what the fans, with their unrealistic expectations, were hoping for.
No wonder King hides in South Africa, making only sporadic trips across the water.
No wonder their manager is talking about being depressed.
The Joey Barton saga is the first clear hole in the superstructure. They’ll slap a little Polyfilla in there, to do a temporary patch-up job but this is only the beginning of their problems and they know it. Like the little Dutch boy with his fingers in the dam – or a Celtic defence facing Barcelona (no harm in being a little self-deprecating, is there?) – this is a damage limitation exercise and nothing more. This club can buy itself a little time to breath, but they’ve been running on emergency fuel for a while now.
Sooner or later – sooner, I think – they’re going to run out.
Now they’ve got this on top of it.
Let’s face it, for all the media has fallen into line by the PR statement put out in Barton’s name last night, you’d be mental to think that takes care of whatever this issue is. Because football players don’t get told to piss off for a week by their clubs because a couple of things were said in the heat of the moment in a team meeting. That story has the substance of wind – or a good fart, if you want a more appropriate metaphor.
Remember the stories of Kris Commons and others being involved in a training ground punch-up?
Who got sent home for a week there?
Sevco’s media team must believe we’re all utterly stupid to buy an explanation as soft as this.
Whatever happened, it was worse.
It merited sending the club’s most expensive player – who’s started every match – away from the ground.
And that’s where the apology is insightful, because it’s the first step towards bringing him back, towards trying to reintegrate him into the team again, and you can tell exactly how successful the effort is going to be by the mere fact that Barton as good as it withdrew it a few minutes after it was made with an unscripted, non-PR response of his own where he said that the apology – such as it was – wasn’t his way of admitting he was wrong.
He then said he was putting dressing room harmony before his ego!
As if a child couldn’t see that his comment was doing the complete opposite.
He quickly deleted that tweet, perhaps realising this himself, but it was too late for that, and half of Twitter had already screen-grabbed it.
When he returns to training on Monday he’ll be walking in there having gone through the motions for the PR people, but without an ounce of contrition, convinced that whatever he said and did was justified, having publicly said the manager was wrong to dismiss him in the first place.
Why do you get the impression the trouble’s only just started?
From those messages it’s easy to infer that this guy has more towering arrogance than we’d thought, and Billy Big Time syndrome is bad enough in a dressing room and a league full of people for whom you have some modicum of respect. But we’re the biggest club in Scotland – by miles – and he’s already had a go at our manager and our captain.
Pause for a second and imagine how he feels about the rest of the game here, his team-mates and coaches included?
According to some sources, when his team-mates suggested they’d done alright without him last season he said they’d beaten nobodies; now, with all the respect in the world for our lower league teams, I know what he meant and I agree with him, wholeheartedly, which is why I struggle to understand all the hype that surrounds Warburton and his “style of football.”
You too can look stylish and fast and energetic in a public park against a bunch of kids.
The Daily Record wouldn’t do a 12 page pull out on you. (Maybe.)
But it’s the way Barton framed his argument “you were playing against sh@t teams in a sh@t league” that betrays the depth of his contempt, and he’s not going to hide it well upon his return, if he bothers to try and hide it at all.
He’s just been on TalkSport, but this wasn’t him doing the PR bit again, in an attempt to kiss and make up.
This was unsolicited, not cleared by the club, the player running to his pals to get his side of the story out first, blindsiding manager and fellow players both. The Sevco fans I’ve spoken to are stunned by this, absolutely stunned. It’s disrespect of the highest order.
And as the TalkSport headline says, he is essentially “unapologetic.”
Last night’s statement was an attempt, by the club, to find a middle ground and a way out.
He issued it only to protect the last lucrative contract he’ll ever get in the game, but he didn’t mean a word of it, and he proved it within minutes and with the way he’s gone public today, undermining his boss (he even called him Warbs at one point, I kid you not), refusing to give a real apology … wow.
So that should be it for him.
Curtains. Bye bye.
I’m going to tell you right now, I’ll be stunned if they sack him.
It’s clear now that they can’t, and he knows it.
The money to pay him off – and shut him up afterwards – isn’t there.
So he’ll stay.
Having said “Sorry. Not sorry.”
He’ll go back to the training ground swaggering, knowing he’s effectively untouchable. He’s seen the limits of the club’s disciplinary powers; a slap on the wrist, a prepared statement of apology … and on we go. We’re going to get the ending – spectacular, vicious, public – we’d been hoping for after all.
In the meantime, the rest of the players are going to have to deal with, and live with, this loose cannon.
They’re going to have to share a dressing room and a training pitch and even a football field with the guy, more weeks than not.
A multi-millionaire who thinks his own opinion is worth more than theirs is.
A guy who is acutely aware he’s played at a higher level than most of them ever will.
What can possibly go wrong there?
This is only one crack in the walls, but we can peer through this one into the club itself and catch a wee glimpse of what’s going on inside. This is a club reeling and rocking at the moment, not far short of a full-on crisis. With things not right at Murray Park, the harmony completely disrupted if not destroyed, the collapse is clearly on its way.