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By ESPN Staff

Pardew happy with Barton

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes Joey Barton's "eccentricity" makes him the player he is.

Barton, 28, is currently enjoying his best season to date in a black and white shirt and his absence from the last two Premier League games with a thigh injury proved costly as the Magpies took just a single point from home clashes with Bolton and Everton.

Barton, who is expected to return to the team at Stoke on Saturday, has prospered on the field after addressing some of the problems which have repeatedly blighted his career and led to a spell behind bars.

Pardew has praised the midfielder for his efforts to turn his life around, a process which the player himself admits is ongoing.

"Joey is not a normal footballer," Pardew said. "He is quite eccentric. His eccentricity extends to his game too and he does things on a football pitch that are eccentric at times. That's what makes him the player that he is.

"He has been consistent on the pitch because he's been consistent off it with his behaviour, and Joey's behaviour is a reflection of where he is at."

Barring a ban for punching Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen, an offence Barton later admitted demonstrated his continuing battle with his demons, he has largely kept himself out of trouble and won over many of his critics on Tyneside as a result.

Indeed, both the club and its fans are desperate for him to sign a new contract, something he was understood to be close to doing before Andy Carroll's transfer window departure shifted the focus.

Talks have now been put on hold until the end of the season, but Pardew remains as keen as ever to persuade the former Manchester City man to stay at St James' Park.

He told the Evening Chronicle: "I have had a great relationship here with Joey. He's got four or five years, maybe six, still left at the very top, and if he stays in the space he's in now he will have a successful period.

"I think I understand him and, in my own way, I have tried to assist him and, in the process, he's delivering."

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