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Oct 22, 2008

Repentant Barton says jail was the jolt I needed

Joey Barton says he has been sober for ten months after the assault charge that put him in prison and nearly ended his career.

The Newcastle midfielder could return to senior action for the Magpies at Sunderland on Saturday after playing 80 minutes of Tuesday night's 4-1 reserve team victory over Middlesbrough.

That would be his first appearance for the club since he was banned for 12 games, six of them suspended, after admitting a Football Association charge of violent conduct against former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

The incident had earlier resulted in a suspended four-month prison sentence, which was handed down when he was already behind bars.

Barton served 74 days of a six-month sentence after pleading guilty to charges of assault and affray following an incident in Liverpool city centre in December.

Now as he prepares for his comeback, he knows he has a task on his hands to persuade people he is a reformed character.

Barton told Sky Sports News: "In some people's minds, I will never be forgiven, and so be it.

"But at the end of the day, I know I am living my life clean, I am living my life in the right way.

"All I am interested in is repaying people's faith who have shown that faith in me.

"At the end of the day, I have stepped out of line a few times now, but nothing before has ever been as serious as it was in the summer when I had to go to jail, in front of courts and really know what life is all about.

"It has taken that. Some people, they never get that far down the line. It has taken that for me to sit up and take notice.

"I have probably had more chances than anyone deserves, I am the first to admit that.

"I have never thought, 'Oh well, I will get more chances because I play football', that's not the case.

"I have been fortunate enough that people have given me more chances. Hopefully, I won't need any more.

"But I am a human being and there will be times when people criticise things I do.

"But for me, the time now is to draw a line under the talking side of things and start letting my performances and my behaviour off the field take care of itself.''

Barton acknowledges many of his problems have had alcohol at their root, and he revealed he has not had a drink for 10 months.

He is well aware he cannot change the past, but is determined to repay the faith of those who stood by him in his hour of need.

The 26-year-old said: "Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if you could go back and change the past, there would be people out there who would go back and change a lot of things.

"We have all got skeletons in the cupboard and things that we regret at some stage in my life and for me, I have probably got a few more things than the average kind of person.

"For me, it is a case of sort of drawing a line under that. I am not asking people in any way, shape or form to say, 'Oh, let's forgive and forget' because I can't condone the things I have done.

"The things I have have been involved in and mixed up in cannot be condoned. For me, it is a case of putting everything to bed.

"I have got my mind set on repaying a lot of people that I have let down, a lot of people who will be disappointed in the things I have done.

"In hindsight, if I could go back and change those things, I would.

"I can't, so all I can do from this day forward is try to do the right things, try to live my life clean, try to do things that will rectify the mistakes I have made in the past.

"At this moment in time, I am 10 months sober now and I am trying to do that.''

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