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Usher: Reds defence key at Basel

Liverpool about an hour ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 13, 2007

Man City boss fuming at Barton 'witch hunt'

Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce has claimed Joey Barton is becoming the victim of a 'witch hunt'.

Barton caught Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes on the Achilles with a late tackle at Fratton Park on Saturday, which so incensed Harry Redknapp he now faces an FA charge because of the viciousness of his complaint to referee Mike Dean.

The FA are still waiting to read Dean's report of the incident before deciding whether to take any action against Barton, who has already been fined £2,000 by Soho Square chiefs this season for baring his backside to Everton fans at Goodison Park in October.

Barton's chequered past also includes being sent home from a pre-season tour of Thailand after becoming involved in a brawl with a schoolboy Everton fan, while he was also fined six weeks wages by his own club after stubbing a cigar out in the eye of young City team-mate Jamie Tandy at a club Christmas party.

And, having looked at the Mendes incident again on video, Pearce believes Barton's past, and his new status as an England international, is counting against him.

'At the moment, for whatever reason, perhaps because Joey has made his debut for England last week, there seems to be a bit of a witch-hunt and people are telling me there is a big crime involved,' Pearce told the Manchester Evening News.

'Yes, he has caught Mendes on the back of his heel but he hasn't meant to do it. The clamour after the game led me to think that something serious must have happened but I have viewed it again and the call for punishment is not fitting of the crime.

'It is very harsh to turn around and suggest he has intentionally gone and done Pedro.'

Whether Pearce's backing will help keep Barton out of trouble will probably be discovered later today, once the FA have decided whether to pursue the matter.

However, City have already indicated their intention to back their man in the strongest possible terms after the FA were made aware of an 'offensive gesture' after the final whistle on Saturday by Hampshire Police.