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By ESPN Staff

Barton still hurting over 'bumgate' punishment

Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton feels he may have been the victim of a 'witch hunt' after the Football Association punished him for dropping his shorts earlier this season.

The 24-year-old was fined £2,000 and given a conduct warning after mooning at Everton fans after the match at Goodison Park on September 30.

Barton believes the punishment made him question whether he was being singled out for special treatment, and he highlighted the fact that Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe avoided any fine or suspension for biting West Ham midfielder Javier Mascherano, as did another player, not named by Barton, for 'blatantly cheating'.

'I was fined for a little bit of tongue-in-cheek behaviour,' he said.

'What frustrates you is that there was a fellow playing in the Premier League who blatantly cheated and another one who bit another player, and nothing is done.

'Then Joey Barton shows his backside ... You do think `is there a little bit of a witch hunt?' But I suppose you let bygones be bygones, and it is onwards and upwards from now on.'

Barton was also criticised last season for requesting a transfer away from City, who kept faith with the player following a series of unsavoury off-field incidents. However, he believes his performances since have forced people to respect him as a player.

'When I made the decision to hand in the transfer request there were a lot of people who said their pieces and jumped on the bandwagon,' he told the club's official website.

'They're entitled to their opinions, but I hope my consistency is slightly rubbing their noses in it. Do not be so quick to judge a book by its cover.

'There are a few people at the minute who will be eating their words - and I hope by the end of the season they will be eating them even more.

'I've racked up a number of appearances and I would not class myself as a novice any more.

'There are a certain number of players you could put your mortgage on to put in a performance, and I'd like to think of myself as one of those.'

Barton believes the club must look to strengthen the squad either in January or at the end of the season if they have ambitions to qualify for Europe.

'We have a long way to go before we start pushing to be in the UEFA Cup or the top seven places in the league year in, year out,' he said.

'It's not for me to say whether there needs to be further investment in the squad, but you'd like to see that there might be some investment in January or the end of the season.'