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By ESPN Staff

Newcastle suspend firebrand Barton

Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton has been suspended from the club until further notice.

The controversial 26-year-old, who was sent off for a reckless challenge on Liverpool's Xabi Alonso on Sunday which cost him a three-match ban and ended his season, has been told to stay away as Alan Shearer attempts to save the club from relegation.

A club statement said: ''Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been suspended from the club until further notice.

''The club will be making no further comment on the matter at this time.''

A report on Tuesday suggested the former Manchester City player was involved in a furious dressing room bust-up with Shearer after the game at Anfield.

The interim manager pulled no punches with his public criticism of Barton, whose rash challenge at the end of his side's 3-0 defeat on Merseyside was the latest on-field misdemeanour in a career that has gone off the rails. He could effectively have played his last game for the club, whatever happens during the remaining three matches of the season, with insiders insisting he will be offloaded regardless of what division the club are playing their football in and the financial implications of doing so.

Signed for £5.8m by then manager Sam Allardyce during the summer of 2007 after being shown the door by City as a result of a training-ground attack on team-mate Ousmane Dabo, Barton was handed another chance - and a wage packet of around £60,000 a week - to prove himself the player he believed he could be.

However, all he has proved is he is an expensive liability, both on and off the pitch.

Sunday's appearance was only his 32nd for the club, with a series of injuries, and, shamefully, a 74-day spell in jail after he was sentenced to six months behind bars for offences of affray and common assault, limiting his availability.

Successive managers have stood by Barton following the club's decision not to sack him over the crime that landed him in prison.

Indeed, Shearer had voiced his own support for the player in the run-up to Sunday's trip to his home city of Liverpool - the stage for the attack that cost him his freedom.

However, that backing evaporated as the red mist descended once again.

Shearer's anger is understandable - Newcastle will almost certainly be relegated if they do not beat both Middlesbrough and Fulham in their remaining two home games, and could yet be even if they do.

An already depleted and unbalanced squad has now lost a player with drive, experience and ability, qualities that could have come in very useful as the campaign reaches a dramatic conclusion.

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