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By ESPN Staff

Barton to start against West Brom

Controversial Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton will make his first start since being released from jail in tonight's Premier League clash with West Brom.

Manager Joe Kinnear has confirmed the 26-year-old will be in the side for a must-win game at St James' Park, his first appearance for the club on home soil since the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea on May 5.

Kinnear said: "Joey will start. I am pleased he is back in the fray. He is a very decent player. I'm hoping all the supporters will get behind him and support him.

"Joey will be doing the best he possibly can for the club and the supporters.''

Barton returned to senior action as a substitute in the 2-1 derby defeat at Sunderland on Saturday, when he was pelted with missiles by home supporters as he warmed up on the sidelines.

However, he was applauded by the travelling fans at the Stadium of Light and Kinnear will hope he gets a similarly positive response after opening his heart on his jail term and the effect it has had on him.

Barton's manager acknowledges his past cannot be ignored, but now wants the player to make headlines with his football.

He said: "He gives us a different option, he goes forward, he is a great passer of the ball, he has got good vision and he can score a goal himself.

"He is up there with the best finishers in the club, especially in training. He weighs up the situation, curls them in from the edge of the box. His first thought is a killer pass, which I like about him. He doesn't like to go sideways or backwards.

"He can look up and just drop it into the path of the two strikers, so he gives us different things.

"He likes to work in and around the last third of the pitch, where we have got other people who like to sit in front of the back four, so it gives us a different option.

"The only thing I haven't come to terms with is the abuse he's getting.''

Barton's inclusion is in part a response to Nicky Butt's absence with ankle and thigh problems, and that has left Kinnear looking for a new captain with both Michael Owen and the former Manchester United midfielder sidelined.

He admits he faces a tough decision with keeper Shay Given and 22-year-old defender Steven Taylor the two candidates for the job.

Kinnear said: "I have to two great candidates in Shay Given and Steven Taylor.

"Nobody needs to tell me what Shay Given means to this football club, both on and off the field. To tell the truth, I have never had a goalkeeper as my captain in either my playing or managerial career.

"If I did opt for Steven Taylor, it would give him a boost. He might stick his chest out even more.

"He's a Geordie boy as well and it would mean a lot to him.''


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