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Aug 3, 2011

Silence is golden

Those who choose to follow professional footballers on Twitter are rarely treated, or tweeted, to anything more profound than a Nando's menu choice, who's thrashing who at FIFA or 140-character reviews of the latest Harry Potter film.

And then came Joseph Barton: Joined Twitter May 26, sacked in all but name by August 1.

From George Orwell, Seneca, Aristotle and Virgil to 19th-century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, Barton's interest goes beyond fast food outlets and video games.

Rather than using his Twitter account for trivial social matters, Barton's chatter has ranged from politics to Morrissey's music - which led to a bizarre and unlikely meeting of minds at Glastonbury this summer. A failure to understand the politicians who run football clubs has been his undoing.

We may find his very public style entertaining as journalists and columnists, but professional it is not - which is why it comes as no surprise that Newcastle's top brass have finally had enough.

It's been a fairly relentless torrent of attacks aimed from Barton, vitriol which began to take on a whole new level when last season's top scorer Kevin Nolan was sold to West Ham in mid-June.

Many have sympathised with Barton (something which just a couple of years ago seemed unthinkable) and with 32 Premier League starts last term, four goals and nine assists there is no doubt he is an asset when the red mist stays gathered in the distance.

No performance epitomises Barton's hunger and desire more than the dramatic 4-4 draw against Arsenal last season, when he personally picked up a beaten and battered side and dragged them back from the abyss. He scored twice, and it was his never-say-day attitude which overran the Gunners' midfield. From four down at half-time the Magpies gained a preposterous point and Barton, the plaudits.

Even though the rest of his time at St James' Park has been dogged by injury and disciplinary issues, there is that thought that the right manager could harness his potential, cool his temperament and truly make him one of the division's premier midfielders.

That man is clearly not Alan Pardew, unable to curb the player's flirtations with Twitter and reportedly ostracising the player from first team training after he failed to accept losing the captaincy for Sunday's pre-season friendly at Leeds. That said, it would be fair to say Pardew, owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias enjoy a close relationship and were unlikely to tolerate disrespect - acolytes one and all.

Barton's case is a peculiar one; despite all the water that has passed under the Tyne bridge in the four years he has been at the club he is a cult figure among the fans. That hero status exists only partially because he has earned it on the pitch; he, like the supporters, seems to have a dislike for Ashley and Llambias.

Barton, nothing if not passionate, has not been able to physiologically overcome the club's decision to withdraw from contract talks, despite the fact his deal runs out in 11 months' time; refusing to accept a cut in wages in January negotiations. Unable to bite his tongue as Newcastle's stars disappear from the squad list, he too will now follow.

While Andy Carroll, Nolan and one-time member of the Twitterati, Jose Enrique, head through the exit door for multi-million pound fees, Barton will go for nothing. Because while Barton's rehabilitation has been steady and sure, defenestration of all that hard work always seems just a moment away.

Newcastle could pick up a transfer fee, but getting him off the wage bill, at a reputed £60,000-a-week, is more important to those in the corridors of power. His snarl and his roar may suit the fans when he is on the pitch, but others have seen enough off it.

Remember this is the club which, against all probability, stood right by Barton when he was handed a 77-day prison sentence for assault three summers ago. They could have sacked him on the spot. Granted, Ashley's decision may have been down to Barton's worth on the balance sheet after paying Manchester City £5.5 million 12 months earlier, but it was a positive decision for the player.

Ashley and his cohorts must tired of wiping the egg off their faces, powerless to silence a man who picks up huge sums of money from the business they own and run.

That Barton is the player he is today is in no small part down to the support of Newcastle. If he had been cast aside in 2008 then he hadn't a prayer of returning to the game with such a high profile club, and most certainly would have dropped down the divisions, at least initially.

Despite Barton's undoubted entertainment value on Twitter he is in danger of losing the sympathy vote. We know he despises those running the club. We know his is a footballer who wears his heart on his sleeve. We know he hates the direction the club has taken, and those who run it.

Verbosity may now only taint his new-found reputation as a man of the people; honesty is not always the best policy.

The likes of Rio Ferdinand and Jack Wilshere are inane in tweeting about having "a cup of tea and a scone" and the "burping/winding technique" but both can go into work without having the three-line whip thrown at them.

That said, isn't Twitter a "social networking" site rather than a place to pursue a public agenda against your employers?

As Confucius once wrote, silence is the true friend that never betrays.

• Follow me on Twitter: @dalejohnsonESPN

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