Joey Barton slams Tory negativity as he aims to put smiles on Bristol Rovers fans’ faces



Joey Barton had choice words for the Conservative government as he spoke of his toughest gig in football: reversing Bristol Rovers’ slide down the Football League

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Down in the muck and nettles of League Two, three of the bottom five clubs are managed by former England internationals Nigel Clough, Keith Curle and Joey Barton.

And as the Three Lions open a Pandora’s box of opportunities to wreak havoc in Andorra’s box this weekend, Barton is fighting to turn the tide at Bristol Rovers.

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As a player, Our Joey was too often running on a short fuse for meditation, prayer and harnessing positive energy through spiritualism to hold sway.

But as he contemplates his toughest gig in football – reversing Rovers’ slide through the Football League foothills in a job he describes as his “Everest” – we can only admire Barton’s belief that faith will move mountains.

Joey Barton’s side are 20th in League Two with three wins from 10 games this season


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It’s been a lousy few weeks for the Gas. Our heating bills are going to go through the roof this winter, and Barton’s club are living dangerously after just three wins in 10 games.

After the home date with Carlisle, he will sit back and watch a foregone conclusion in the Pyrenees with no regrets that his own England career was more peep-show than mismatch.

“Mine only lasted 18 minutes when I replaced Frank Lampard against Spain at Old Trafford in 2007,” said Barton.

“But for 18 minutes, I was the best central midfielder available to represent my country, and nobody can ever take that cap or those 18 minutes away from me.

Joey Barton earned his sole England cap during a friendly against Spain in 2007



“For a working-class lad from Liverpool, it was the highest possible honour to wear the England shirt. And yet you think you’ve climbed the mountain, but this job is my Everest. This is the toughest mountain I’ve ever had to climb.

“Since I’ve been here, Bristol Rovers have won seven games out of 30, which is nowhere near good enough, and if we win only seven of the next 30, we’ll be out of the Football League – but I refuse to live in the doldrums.

“If I thought it would make us play better and win, I’d take my cap to the stadium on Saturday and see if it makes a difference.

“I doubt if Nigel and Curley, who had more international experience than me in their careers, wave their caps around the dressing room to motivate their players.

“I think it takes more than playing for England to change the culture of a football club. The challenge for all of us is to find a way out of the bottom end of the table as quick as we can.

“I’m trying to use all the tools in the kitbag – going back to when I was 14 or 15 and everyone told me I wasn’t good enough to make it in professional football because I was too small.

“Eventually I proved people wrong but I had to scrap all the way, and it’s the same as a coach.

“I’m trying to stay calm by meditating as much as I can, I’ve been going to church for an hour to find positivity from the spiritual world.

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“And I want to give Gasheads among the people of Bristol some respite from the endless negativity of a Tory government who don’t care about the people who put them in office.

“One minute they are removing £20 of Universal Credit from the poorest in our society and the next they are drinking champagne and one of them is singing that she’s having the time of her life.

“We are the sick man of Europe. Friends in Marseille, from when I played in France, keep asking me, ‘How are British people not on the streets?’ They don’t understand how we put up with it.”

Rovers, who took 42,000 fans to Wembley for a play-off final 14 years ago, are probably the drowsiest of English football’s sleeping giants.

Bristol Rovers won promotion to League One with play-off final victory over Shrewsbury Town in 2007



Barton, 39, recognises the potential – but the slump must end soon.

“We are a big noise in this division, we are a big-city club and we need to wear that as a badge of honour, but we also need to recognise the challenge.

“Bristol Rovers have been around 99 years longer than me, but their highest-ever finish in the League was sixth in the old Second Division in 1955.

“My lowest-ever finish as a player was fifth, in the second tier, with QPR – and I want this club to aim high, and breathe in the air of higher altitude.

“But if we look at the League table and allow a culture of negativity to take over, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

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