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Nov 5, 2008

Barton to escape FA sanctions

The Football Association will not pursue any investigation against Joey Barton after Aston Villa confirmed they had no complaint to make in relation to an incident involving forward Gabriel Agbonlahor's and the Newcastle midfielder.

It had been alleged Barton made a racist comment towards Agbonlahor when the sides met at St James' Park on Monday night, but the England Under-21 striker had already decided he did not want to take the matter further and now his club say they have no complaint to lodge either.

As a consequence, the FA now consider the matter closed.

"The FA wrote to Aston Villa this morning to ask for any information the club could provide regarding allegations reported in today's media of remarks made by Joey Barton to Gabriel Agbonlahor during Villa's match against Newcastle on Monday,'' said a statement from the FA.

"The club has responded to inform us that they have no complaints to make. On this basis, the FA will not be pursuing this matter.''

Villa manager Martin O'Neill had earlier been asked about the incident during his pre-match press conference ahead of the UEFA Cup game against Slavia Prague tomorrow.

"Gaby doesn't want to talk about it and he doesn't want to press charges,'' O'Neill said.

"That's what he said to me yesterday and he reiterated that this morning.

"I've just heard, regardless of what Gaby does or doesn't say, the FA would like to hear what sort of comments we have to make on an official basis.''

Monday night's defeat brought to an end Villa's good run of form that had seen them gatecrash the Premier League's top four.

But O'Neill insisted tiredness would not be an issue in the Czech capital tomorrow night.

However, he confirmed he would make changes to the side that faced Newcastle as they look to build on their opening win over Ajax a fortnight ago.

O'Neill said: "I think that (tiredness) would be a pretty lame excuse to throw in at this stage. We've played the game on Monday night, that's the way it fell.

"We were lucky in many aspects to get a week to prepare ourselves - you wouldn't have told that by our second-half performance - but this is what we're here for.

"We've qualified for the UEFA Cup, we know most of the games are going to be played on Thursday evenings, so you get yourself ready for it.

"It shouldn't be a problem. That doesn't mean I won't change the side around, I will make some changes because some of the players who have been crying out for games, wanting to prove themselves, will get a run-out tomorrow night.

"That doesn't mean the game is not important, it's very, very important to us.

"We had a decent start, we've got three points on the board - obviously it's not enough - and tomorrow night will be exceptionally difficult.

"But it is a chance for some players to come into the game, at least fresh, even if they aren't able to last the full 90 minutes, and they should come in with a ferocious determination to prove a point.''

O'Neill will definitely make two changes with James Milner struggling with injury and Marlon Harewood having stayed at home to be at the birth of his child last night. Stiliyan Petrov is also still missing with a hamstring injury.

"In terms of Stiliyan Petrov, he missed the game on Monday and I thought he was missed by us, and James has had an injury,'' said O'Neill.

"I know James would really wanted to have played but there's a risk if he played tomorrow he misses Sunday (against Middlesbrough).

"I thought the best thing would be to get himself right and with Marlon, it's just one of those things.

"It's a shame because it would have been an opportunity for him to go and play a big game and get himself back into contention for the first team.''

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