The fact that Newcastle lost to Liverpool at Anfield yesterday probably didn't come as a shock to anyone, even the fans of the north-east club which is now well and truly embroiled in a relegation dogfight. Sadly, this lack of surprise can also be applied to the ugly scenes which saw Joey Barton leaving the pitch after an immature display of petulance and frustration.
Xabi Alonso, the victim of Barton's lack of discipline, was also forced to leave the field after the Newcastle midfielder's rash lunging tackle left him lucky to escape serious injury. These types of tackles are often blamed on frustration or are simply put down to mistimed, ill-judged attempts to win the ball at all costs.
Unfortunately for Barton, those closest to him in the football world are quite obviously becoming sick and tired of searching for excuses for his behaviour. For a player who spent periods in jail last year and has hit the headlines after violent confrontations with team-mates, tackles which initially appear mistimed and badly judged often take on a new prominence in the minds of those observing his on-field activity.
In this respect, it is refreshing to hear Newcastle manager, Alan Shearer, voicing his criticism of the midfielder. The boss stated that he was "bitterly disappointed at the way" the tackle happened and was unapologetic in his assertion that the player "deserved to be sent off". Barton will now miss Newcastle's games against Middlesbrough, Fulham, and Aston Villa.
For all his petulance and aggression, Barton is a player capable of putting in displays of hard graft and natural talent on the pitch and his absence deprives Shearer of an important player in the relegation run-in. The fact that Barton's disappointing attitude is coupled with natural talent makes his situation all the more frustrating. The player has made promise after promise to his team-mates and managers concerning a change in attitude but this transition has entirely failed to materialise.
If Barton is forced out of Newcastle, it is hard to imagine many clubs striving to secure his signature.