Thanks to the work of Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew, Joey Barton appears to be in the form of his life at the moment. He’s not one to mince words though and he’s been sending a clear message to Mike Ashley as to what he thinks he should do. Joey said:
“You don’t take four points from Ewood and St Andrew’s if you don’t have that character.
“This squad wants to keep pushing on but we need a squad to compete on all fronts. It’s up to the men upstairs to make sure we amass one and get the bodies in to challenge for Europe.“
“You need to spend money. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. So hopefully they spend it and spend it wisely.“
I think, Joey, there are plenty people who would argue – fairly or otherwise – that the monkeys are already here, wearing suits and running the club.
Joey goes on:
“There are certain characters who, if you’d brought them into this dressing-room four or five years ago, wouldn’t have gelled. The mentality now is such that you could almost pitch anyone in and they would buy into our work ethic. Everyone who has come in over the past year has had to buy into our principles and there are lads who sacrifice individual performances for the team.
“With all the adversity that’s gone on around the club, we’re probably a bit low on bodies to go on cup runs and the things we all want to do. We played on Saturday and Tuesday, and obviously teams who can rotate are at a massive advantage. If we can add more in the summer, we’ve got the spine of a side that can push for a European place.
“The nature of this club is that it’s sometimes stop-start. As soon as we get something going, players get sold and we have to start again. It feels like a constant work in progress and it’s tough in that respect, but what we have is character in abundance.“
All sensible stuff Joey, but I think it’s all about balance.
I’m no fan of Ashley but I do agree with him that the club has to run on a sound financial basis. Like it or not, football clubs are business entities and they can’t operate on ever-increasing debts the way Freddie Shepherd was running things.
Many clubs got away with that for a while thanks to a buoyant economy and a banking sector that was (all too) willing to finance business debt. The economy is no longer in that situation and businesses that can’t pay their way are going under.
The only clubs with a free hand to spend and not care about it are those run by mega-rich benefactors for who hundreds of millions of pounds is mere pocket money (although I’ve often wondered what happens to those clubs when the rich benefactor gets bored and sells up).
However, having said that, I think it’s still sensible to maintain some balance. If we sell every player to the highest bidder and don’t reinvest wisely we will, as Joey says, never move forward in the footballing sense, which in turn will set us back in the financial sense too.
One of the things I fear most is that we adopt the approach Doug Ellis had at Aston Villa, which was simply to avoid relegation and actually aim for mediocrity. Sure, that might make for financial stability but it’s mighty tedious and not what football’s about. There has to be a different way to that.