Not surprisingly, Joey Barton's release from prison on Monday after serving 74 days of a six-month sentence for violent assault sparked debates in Britain, starting with one on the system of early parole from England's crowded prisons and on to whether he should be welcomed back by English Premier League club Newcastle United. And if so, shouldn't his wage of $141,000 per week be reduced?
Indeed, Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan has welcomed back Barton, saying, "He's served his sentence and he has been punished. I told him as long as from now on he did things right and started to rebuild the confidence of people around him, I would stick by him."
Barton's imprisonment was only the latest incident in a series of criminal behavior. While at Manchester City, he beat up teammate Ousmane Dabo, who had to be hospitalized. He stubbed out a cigarette in the eye of a junior Manchester City player at a Christmas party, and was sent home from a preseason Thailand tour for punching a 15-year-old Everton supporter.
Columnist Rob Hughes compares Barton with England captain Steven Gerrard: "They are products of the same environment, sons of broken families in a tough but vibrant city which has a sporting pulse. Gerrard's fame includes having received the Freedom of the Borough in which he was born, as well as the alumni award bestowed last Friday."