An evening with Joey Barton

He’s got millions in the bank, a baby on the way and enough Twitter followers to fill Manchester twice over.

So why on earth would Joey Barton give up two hours of his time to talk to four strangers in a dingy basement off Bond Street?

Beats me. But that’s exactly what the QPR captain did on Monday night to join me and my co-conspirators on the Open All R’s podcast.

The following day, his forthright opinions about the head honchos at former club Newcastle made the back pages of most national newspapers.

“The evening ended with a QPR quiz which quickly descended into anarchy.”

And all I did was ask an innocent question about QPR – which, funnily enough, is what the show is supposed to be about.

But more of that later.

On reflection, the decision to meet a tee-totaller – whose past indiscretions have been fuelled by the demon drink – in the pub was perhaps a little inappropriate.

I don’t know what I was expecting really. A loud, opinionated, obnoxious footballer, perhaps, who made it clear he was doing us a favour, or a pseudo-intellectual clutching a copy of Psychology Weekly.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.

After Barton turned up (on the dot) with new PA Hayley in tow, there followed tales of Morrissey (“They say you should never meet your heroes but he was sound”) and team-mate Shaun Derry’s multi-coloured undercrackers, gleefully illustrated by a photo of the offending items.

Conscious Hayley was being left out, I asked what she had done previously and she revealed she’d looked after a number of people but would now be devoting all her time to the controversial midfielder.

“You’ll need it!” I joked. I’m not sure whether she wanted to laugh or cry.

Hayley decided not to join us in the cramped studio. Wise girl – there was enough testosterone flying around in there to make Arnold Schwarzenegger blush.

Barton prepares to deliver his Christmas message to Newcastle’s owners.

I was sitting next to Barton and noticed he was initially a little fidgety – possibly realising we were eating into primetime Tweeting time – but he quickly got into his stride, insisting he and Neil Warnock were definitely not “two peas in a pod”.

“Sometimes I can say things that are a little close to the bone so I can see why people think we’re similar, but our personalities are very different,” he explained.

“He speaks his mind and that’s why I like him. He really enjoys the notoriety of some of the comments he says and I don’t know whether he sometimes says them to be controversial.” (Sound familiar?)

Barton also insisted he’d be staying at Loftus Road until the club had moved on to “the next level” and was looking forward to the challenge, reasoning: “It would boring if you just turned up and won every week.” Ooh I don’t know.

And then came the bombshell. On behalf of a listener I innocently asked him: “What swung it for you to come to QPR and how come it took so long for you to decide?”

There followed a 13-minute  tirade about Newcastle chiefs Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias which you may just have heard about by now.

When I thought the speech had reached its natural conclusion I stepped in to swing the topic back to QPR but was brushed aside like a lightweight midfielder as he insisted: “I’ve got to get this off my chest”.

As buzzwords like ‘Ayatollah’ and ‘cretins’ – manna from heaven for the Red Tops – peppered the monologue I began to wonder whether this was the plan all along.

After giving his embittered sermon in that soft Scouse lilt of his, Barton returned to the job in hand, jokingly asking: “Is this a QPR podcast?” before giving views on Twitter, riots and even a little bit about Rangers.

The evening ended with a QPR quiz which quickly descended into anarchy – partly because of the fierce desire to win by all parties and partly because after 73 long minutes we were all going a little stir crazy.

And then he was off into the night, mischievously tweeting from the back of the cab about new show Desperate Scousewives – with the Daily Mail no doubt monitoring his every word, waiting to pounce –  while we headed back to the pub, in need of a stiff drink.

Incidentally, during his time at the mic, Barton only ducked one question: “Which Smiths song best describes your time at QPR?”

On the evidence of Monday night it’s a toss-up between This Charming Man and Big Mouth Strikes Again.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

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