New lease of life at QPR

There is no doubting Joey Barton's talent. With his passing, tackling and goal-scoring ability, he's up there with some of the best midfielders in the EPL, writes Chris Conway.

For every high in Joey Barton's career to date, there is likely to be twice as many, if not more, lows for the QPR captain. A self-proclaimed ‘top tweeter', Barton has often found himself hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Barton openly admits he has made mistakes over the years but he has set about trying to prove he is a reformed character and appears to have been given a new lease of life at Barclays English Premier League newcomers Rangers.

The midfielder's time at Newcastle was marred by controversy. He struggled with injuries, attacked the board publicly on Twitter and even found himself barred from the club after falling out with then Newcastle manager Alan Shearer.

There is no doubting Barton's talent. With his passing, tackling and goal-scoring ability, he's up there with some of the best midfielders in the EPL.

The Liverpudlian was granted a free transfer by Newcastle at the end of last season — despite playing some of his best football for the club — and after being linked with a number of clubs, Hoops boss Neil Warnock won the race for his signature.

Barton has made an impressive start to his QPR career after being given the responsibility of being named captain by Warnock and the former Manchester City man still has one eye on making the England squad for the European Championships next summer.

But with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard ahead of him, that would appear to be a long shot despite Barton insisting he is “the best midfielder in the country”.

An Everton fan as a youngster, Barton started out in the Toffees' youth set-up but was released and told he would not make the grade professionally because he was too small. Manchester City snapped him up and he made his first-team debut in a 2-0 defeat at Bolton in April 2003.

Barton continued to impress for City and despite a number of off-field controversies, he was named the club's young Player of the Year for the 2003/04 season.

However, trouble was never far away and at the City Christmas party in 2004, Barton responded to team-mate Jamie Tandy trying to set his shirt on fire by stubbing a lit cigar out in his eye.

After a bust-up with a 15-year-old Everton fan on a pre-season tour of Thailand, where team-mate Richard Dunne had to hold him back, Barton was sent home early in disgrace.

But he continued to perform well on the pitch for City and won his one and only England call-up for a friendly against Spain in 2007, coming on as a substitute with 12 minutes remaining.

However, Barton hit the headlines for the wrong reasons once again when he was involved in a training ground bust-up with team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

The midfielder joined Newcastle in the summer of 2007 for GBP5.8 million, but in May 2008 he was sentenced to six months in prison for assault and affray following an attack on a man in Liverpool city centre in December 2007.

Following his release Newcastle were relegated but he played his part in getting the Magpies back into the EPL at the first attempt, before putting in some of his best displays in a black and white shirt under Chris Hughton and then Alan Pardew last season.

Barton's spell at St. James' Park came to an end this summer after he was made available on a free transfer by the Magpies, who took exception to criticism of the club's transfer policy.

After being linked with the likes of Arsenal and West Ham, Barton joined ambitious QPR and he has taken to life in London like a duck to water.

Barton continues to let his feelings be known, mainly on Twitter, but as long as he continues to produce the goods for Rangers there will not be any complaints from Hoops boss Warnock.

He was sent to prison after an assault on a man in Liverpool city centre. Barton is not married, but his girlfriend is pregnant with their first child.

Barton recently revealed he would be getting rid of his Aston Martin DBS and buying a more practical Toyota Prius and a moped.

FACTFILE Name: Position: Club: D.O.B: England caps: England goals: Debut: Moment to remember Moment to forget

Barton stabbed a lit cigar in the eye of Manchester City youngster Jamie Tandy during the club's Christmas Party in 2004. He was fined six weeks wages by City.

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