Speaking in a long audio podcast interview for the Queen’s Park Ranger’s ‘blog “Open All R’s,” he finally lifted the lid on his time at Newcastle United and his strained relationship with the infamous Ashley / Llambias regime. In the interview, he revealed what he felt were the real reasons why he and other senior members of the squad have been forced out St James’ Park, how the club tried to force him to sign a contract on a fifth of his old wage whilst he was in Walton prison, what he feels were the real reasons behind the sacking of Chris Hughton, how despite his profound hatred of Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias, he still feels a strong affinity with the club and more…
Some (misquoted) sections of the interview have already appeared in the media and other ‘blogs, so I decided to make a more accurate and extensive transcription of all the sections which related to Newcastle United. I’ve have also included the mp3 podcast of the entire interview at the bottom of the piece.
Responding to a QPR fan’s question on what swung it for him to come to Queen’s Park Rangers, Barton began by outlining the reson’s why he had to leave his former club saying:
“I was obviously deemed by the board at Newcastle “Persona non grata” (Person not welcome). They didn’t want me because I asked questions.
“They promised reinvestment of the Andy Carroll money and I was asking where it was. They promised a number of things and delivered on very few of them.
“When I was taking to the pitch, I felt an unbeleivable rapport with my fellow professionals, and obviously with the fans, and even to an extent the management there, except for the owners.
“It was always going to be difficult. For me, I take the pitch and I’m a football fan playing football, and I have to believe in the cause I’m playing for.
“I couldn’t turn up and just pick my money up; It’s not me, it’s not what I do it for.
“I do it because I want to prove people wrong, I do it to prove to myself all manner of things, and I also do it because I think it’s important to be a part of a football club. I think it’s importnat to care about your job. I think it’s important to want to be the best you can be. It mightn’t be the best player in the world but the best you can be.
“I think if you do that you lead a life of contentment whether that’s as a footballer or not. I think if you can get up and look yourself in the mirror and say, you know what, I had a football career where I got the best out of my football ability.
“I’ve probably been guilty of not doing that for a long time in my career and for me, I want to prove to myself that I can get the best out of my career.
“At Newcastle, I couldn’t take to the pitch and lie to the fans and be part of it and say yeah, I’m fully behind it because that’s what they’re asking us to do.
“When I take to the pitch and I pull the shirt on, obviously you doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the fans and you’re doing it for the football club. But if you fundamentally despise everything that the owners stand for, it’s very very difficult.
“I’m a man of principles and maybe that’s the reason I’m not at Newcastle is that I’m a very principled individual.
“For me, taking money off fans, taking the p— out of them is not what I’m about. I wouldn’t condone it and never would, and I’d rather walk away with my dignity and my self respect intact, and I feel I’ve done that.
“You ask any Newcastle fan, I would never say a bad word about the club.
Then, revealing the sheer depth of his loathing for the gruesome twosome currently running the club doesn’t prevent him from always wishing the club well, Barton went on:
“I’ve got alot of ill feeling towards Derek Llambias and Mike Ashley, as have a number of Newcastle fans. But the football club is always going to be bigger than than any said individual.”
“I mean they might own the football club now, but in my opinion they’re only taking care of it until someone else comes in and they pass. They’re only leasing it, they’ve paid alot of money.
I keep getting told that they’re really savvy businessmen but I defy dealing with them on a daily basis, which I have.
Interviewer: “And of course they changed the name of the stadium from St James’ Park, which is legendary in football, to Sports Direct Arena.”
Joey Barton: “Well for me, things were going so well there, and I actually really want the club to do well.
“As much as I really don’t like them (Ashley and Llambias), I think it’s important ’cause I like the manager and I’ve got alot of friends at the football club, not only playing staff but members of staff, and also I had a great rapport with the fans so I really want the football club to do really well.
“People think I’m not happy that Newcastle are doing so well, I’m actually really happy. Obviously the flipside of my happiness is the fact that if Newcastle do well, then obviously the people I don’t like are doing well. But for me, there’s more people at the club that I like than dislike so for me it’s a no brainer.
“There’s also the fact that you’ve got to keep your professional head on, and no matter what I’ll always have an affiliation with that football club just because the journey I was on in my life, highs and lows, I was sort of involved in that.
The feisty midfielder then went on to dispel the myth that he was paid by the club while serving a 77 day prison sentence for assault. He also added that while he was serving his sentence in Walton jail, then Director of football, Dennis Wise, tried to make him sign a renegotited contract that would see him on a fifth of his former salary. On this Barton recalled:
“Alot of people say to me ‘Oh yeah, but Newcastle paid your wages when I was in jail,’ but they never. I was not paid, not that I wanted to be but I was not paid.
“I was also given a contract from, I think it was Dennis Wise at the time, saying if I didn’t sign a renegotiated deal on alot less money than I was on that they would sack me, and that came from Mike Ashley who obviously controls the club.
“So they basically gave me an ultimatum that if I didn’t sign this contract on a fifth of the money I was on, they were going to sack me.
“I was sitting in a jail cell at the time so I had no real power. I either had to do it or not do it.
“As principled as I am, I said to my agent at the time ‘I’m not signing, f___ ’em. I’ll let them sack me. I’m quite confident I’ll come out of here and get back to the player I was’.”
“So that was nothing against the football club. That was the fact that I was getting, in my opinion, railroaded into doing something I didn’t want to do.
“He got a copy of the contract from Wise, that he was meant to bring into Walton prison for me to sign. He actually took it to his solicitor in London and the solicitor put it in a safe and legally, they had to sack me and keep me on the contract I was on. They couldn’t renegotiate the similar length of deal with lower money.
“So once he phoned them up and told them about the FA’s rules and regulations in terms of contracts, and the fact that he had this contract that proved they were trying to renegotiate, they couldn’t then sack me.
“From that moment on, alot of the questions I had for Derek Llambias were ‘well hang on a minute, you tried to do this to me when I was having a bad time. So did you think now that I’m playing really well…
“This was nothing against the club, this was a personal issue. In my opinion, they tried to f___ me when I was at a low time, and yet they were demanding loyalty from me three years down the line when I was playing well, and I was like, well hang on a minute, there’s some balance here. You can’t be the way you’ve been with me, and Derek was saying ‘oh well that wasn’t me, that was Dennis Wise, that was this, that was that…”
“At the end of the day, at that football club Mike Ashley’s the Ayatollah, nothing happens without his say-so. So in my opinion it came from Mike. No decision at the club was made without Mike’s knowledge, and he must have signed off on it to say ‘gp and do that.’ So that was always there in the background.
Intriguingly, he then suggested that he had many more tails of Ashley and Llambias’ shenannigans at the club to reveal at a future time. He also revealed a further reason why Ashley was determined to be rid of Barton and several other players such as Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith Andy Carroll and Steve Harper, a player dispute over bonus sheets. He also believed this was the real reason for the sacking of ex manager, Chris Hughton. On these topics Barton began:
“There’s alot more, I mean there’s lots of stories for another day about what they got up to.”
Interviewer: “It’s interesting because my impression as a football fan was Joey Barton left Newcastle because he’s caused some trouble. What you’ve said in the last five minutes completely puts a a different perspective on it.”
Joey Barton: “Yes but don’t forget Newcastle as a playing squad last year were the only club in Premier League history not to sign a bonus sheet. It never happened. It’s unprecedented that a club did that. We refused as a playing staff [to sign] as they tried to railroad the players into signing a bonus sheet.
“It fundamentally cost Chris Hughton his job in my opinion. Because Chris couldn’t get us to sign the player’s bonus sheet, Mike Ashley said he’s got no control over the players, he needs to go, and I think that was his undoing.
“Obviously that happened over a period of time. We had a great affiliation with Chris, and as I say, this is all my opinion, and from snippets of information I’ve picked up.
“Chris knew he was on borrowed time from that, and there was a guy who in my opinion had kept the club together when they went down to the Championship. He had no budget, and obviously inherited a playing staff that was fragmented and disjointed.
“The guy handled them himself with nothing but dignity, done a fantastic job with a number of coaching staff, swimming against the tide in my opinion at boardroom level and got the club back in the Premier League, which, as most QPR fans would give testament to is a fantastic achievement. It’s not an easy league to win. You look at it this year, there’s seven teams could win it, but Newcastle won it at a canter.
“They got rid of Chris Hughton, and obviously I thought that the way that they done it, they could have handled it with a little more dignity. It was disappointing and I felt aggrieved by it.
At the time, the club issued a statement which said amongst other things:
“Regrettably, the board now feels that an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward.”
Later of course, in a secretly recorded conversation with fans in a Newcastle gastro-bar, Derek Llambias didn’t mention anything about bonus sheets either. In a rather different account of the events leading up to the shooting of Bambi, Llambias bragged that it was he and not Ashley who was responsible for Hughton’s sacking. He said on that occaision:
“Chris Hughton would never have taken us where we want to be. That’s my decision by the way. Chris can’t make decisions. If I am asking about a player, Ben Arfa? he says ‘I’m not sure, blah blah blah’. With Chris, he couldn’t cope with where we are mentally. We are aggressive. You need to be aggressive. I don’t want a manager below me who can’t argue.
“You guys don’t understand how f______ horrible we can be.”
Getting back to Barton’s spleen venting though, he returned to the bonus sheet issue, continuing on how Newcastle were the only club in the history of the Premiership not to make bonus sheet arrangements. On this he continued:
“At the same time, We refused to sign the bonus sheet. So, their opinion was even though every single club in the Premier League history, since 1992, had these arrangements in place, they decided that we were paid workforce, which, they probably had an argument.
“They thought we were Sports Direct and we should do what the subordinates at Sports Direct do, forgetting they were dealing with 20-odd egos, probably 10 self-sufficient men in a position to make a number of different judgments.
“Myself, Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith, Steve Harper and Andy Carroll, probably the bigger name players at the time, advised the playing staff, because we were head of the playing committee, not to sign the bonus sheet. Obviously that filtered back to boardroom level.
“It’s no coincidence that I got sold, well, I got given away. Andy Carroll got sold, Kevin Nolan was sold, Steve Harper, a fantastic servant for the football club has been forced to go on loan, his position made untenable, and Alan Smith’s been told he’s going to train with the reserves for the rest of his days and they don’t want him anywhere near the football club.
At the time of course, both Llambias and manager, Alan Pardew, didn’t mention anything about the bonus sheets dispute in their reasons for disposing with the services of players such as Carroll, Nolan, Barton himself, and most recently, the isolation of Steve Harper. In the case of Carroll, both Llambias and Pardew denying that they that they forced Carroll out of the club. Shortly after Carroll’s departure, Llambias said:
“We didn’t push Andy Carroll out, far from it — he asked to go.
“The fact is Mike Ashley didn’t want to sell him, it’s not like he needs the money is it? And remember we turned down bids of £30m and then £35m from Liverpool.”
Later of course, in the abovementioned gastro-bar tapes, Llambias gave yet another account of events. Initially asked if he felt that Carroll was worth £30 million, Llambias responded:
“No – he’s worth f*** all.
“It is about control. We had the control. We knew the Torres deal was there. We drew that f****** deal, perhaps the ultimate.
“So £30m? F*** off! Don’t waste my time and I slammed the phone down.
“£35m? Everybody including Pardew all agreed.
“But the £35m they wanted to pay over four years. It was rubbish. Mike (Ashley) said — and he is a brave boy Mike I promise you — get all the £35m up front.
“We got it all up front and then they never paid us on time and we charged them 12 grand f****** interest.”
Getting back once again to the Barton interview though, like Llambias, he also spoke of “control” when he continued:
“To me it’s all about power and control. They are running the football club and it’s going really well for them at the minute but I think that’s more a testament to the players and the fans, and also the manager. The manager has been different class.”
“I would wouldn’t like to go to work, and work for those two cretins.”
“But yeah, I’ve got a great affiliation with the football club, I really hope they do well. I always look for the results and I can’t wait to go back to St James’ Park, it’s one of the great places to play football in this country.”
And that was that on the subject of Newcastle United.
Meanwhile, in response to Barton’s claims, Derek Llambias tastelessly tried to drag the name of the recently deceased Newcastle United legend, Gary Speed, into the dispute, playing to the gallery in a despicable ploy to attract sympathy by association. Yes, we understand only too well how “f______ horrible” you can be, Derek.
“In a week when one of Newcastle United’s most beloved footballers passed away, it is disappointing that once again Joey Barton makes the headlines.
“It is also unfortunate that Joey chose to draw such a disparaging comparison between himself and the employees of Sports Direct, who through hard work and dedication are the recipients of the most generous bonus scheme in the UK.
Barton didn’t really make any disparaging comparisons with Sports Direct employees, rather, he made conparisons with every other football team in the history of the Premiership. Barton also suggested that this was one place where Ashley and Llambias may actually have had an argument of some kind. But anyway, Llambias continued with his distorted version thus:
“It may not be a lot of money to Joey, but over 2,000 Sports Direct employees earning £20,000 will receive shares worth over £44,000 over the next two years.
“However, in this week of all weeks, we really do not wish to engage in a public war of words with Joey Barton.
Llambias then concluded by making a veiled, but almost certainly empty threat of legal proceedings against Barton saying:
“Our legal advisors are dealing with the matter now and we would encourage Joey to concentrate on his football at Queens Park Rangers.”
The podcast of the entire interview, where Barton also pays tribute to the recently deceased Gary Speed, as well as speaking on more Queen’s Park Rangers related stuff is below.