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Joey Barton makes cheeky dig at Bristol City and delivers 20-minute ‘rant’ on state of the game

Joey Barton makes a cheeky dig at Bristol City and delivers a 20-minute ‘rant’ on the state of the game, comments that got people talking.

In August, the Bristol Rovers boss made it his personal mission to get Bristol Rovers to the Premier League before rivals Bristol City, but admitted his side have a lot of catching up to do to overtake their neighbours in the south.

Barton got a little excited it would seem after the Gas beat Oxford United 1-0 to move into third in the early League One standings, winning two of their first three games since returning to the third tier. Bristol City were 23rd at the time meaning there were three places separate the sides in the pyramid – the closest the two teams have been for years with the 28th of October 2000 being the last time Rovers were above the Robins in any league standings.

Joey Barton

However since Rovers beat Oxford, Barton’s side haven’t won a game since, losing two and drawing three to leave them 16th while Bristol City haven’t lost in the league since and climb all the way up to 4th. Wonder if Barton’s comments played any part in motivation for Rovers’ rivals?

“We’re a lot bigger city to be having no Premier League side and my goal is to put the blue side in the Premier League before the red side,” Barton said, in the wake of the win over Oxford, as reported by Bristol Post. “They’ve (City) had a right crack of it because of what’s been here before but nobody has conquered the mountain in Bristol.

“We speak about it all the time. At the start of the season, we were speaking about it. We were up on the observation tower (Clifton Observatory) overlooking the Suspension Bridge saying we want to be the first team on the moon in this city. While it’s still there, we’re going to give everything we can.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and lots of catching up. They’ve got a bigger ground than us, a better training ground than us, but you’ve seen last week, Steve (Lansdown) is talking about selling the club. He’s had his fill of it. He’s poured that much money into it and our owner hasn’t.

“Our owner has massive ambition and I have to rein it in from him when I’m talking about us getting value for money. It’s not for Wael, it is me going ‘No, there is a fair price’.

“You want to play for us. Why would you not want to play for us? We make every player better. If you come in and you want to work hard and get better, we do everything at a ridiculously high level for the level we’re playing at. It’s Championship and above in every aspect.

“If you’re a young player and you come here, you get better. If you’re an idiot and you don’t want to put it in and cut corners and you want to think there is a shortcut, you will get emptied out here because the group just won’t have you.

“My commitment to the Gasheads is that every person that pulls on that jersey will give everything they’ve got for the football club because we’re custodians, we don’t own the club. We will all disappear in a period of time and we want to set a legacy here that sets the benchmark for the blue half of Bristol.”



Meanwhile, and more recently, Joey Barton delivered passionate 20-minute monologue on the state of the game, as per Bristol Post

Stockpiling of players

“It’s just the way all the time. You just get used to it now and you think why doesn’t everybody do it earlier? You realise the driving force is the economics. Everyone is trying to get a little bit more for the player, whether they’re coming in or out. Everyone is haggling and all of a sudden the bell is going to ring at some point and then it’s like pass the parcel.

“You don’t want to be left with surplus in your matchday squad that you can’t select. Wasted wages sitting in the stands are no good for anybody. The problem we’ve got is everybody up the food chain, the apex lads at the top, they can absorb. We’ve seen Ross Barkley get paid up £200,000 a week at Chelsea. It is mind-boggling the money they can absorb and have people not playing.

“When they stockpile players, which they do, right through the age groups, all of a sudden the market forces dictate.

“There have been five or six Premier League clubs we’ve been asking for 18 or 19-year-olds, saying ‘Look at the work we’ve done with all the young players we’ve had’. They say ‘He’s not going out until January because we need to fulfil our EFL Trophy commitments and we need to have a good start in the Premier League 2 campaign. Great, but what does that do for the kid’s career? They need to be out playing football, but they protect asset values and if that is their business model then there is nothing we can do about it.

“We’re ending up with an inferior product. Players are getting worse, players aren’t getting better. The game isn’t evolving and the Premier League, barring probably the top four or five, is worse than it’s ever been. The Championship is as bad as it’s ever been. The standard of footy, on the whole, is dipping, and the reason it is dipping is all the talent is being stockpiled and being given opportunities at the right time.

“Unfortunately, when that happens there is a scarcity of opportunities for young people to develop and fulfil their potential. Look at (Ruben) Loftus-Cheek, for instance. He’s 25 or 26 and he was the best player at 18 or 19, probably in Europe, but he’s 25 or 26 now and he’s probably played less than 150 starts for them.

“The only way you improve as a player is by playing. People tell you it’s on the training pitch and they haven’t been footballers. The only way you improve as a footballer is when you play. Look at our game on Tuesday night. Young Harvey Greenslade takes penalties out there and scores three or four in practice, top bin, but misses in the shootout because practice isn’t the same.

“So unless we get them opportunities, and we have a problem that we haven’t got an under-23s programme here so Jerry Lawrence, Harvey and Ryan Jones play the other night but we haven’t got another game now for them until the next EFL Trophy game. We’re trying to get them out on loan and playing because I think that is where you improve. We’ve just got this bottleneck and the biggest travesty in this game is young, fit lads without opportunities to play on a Saturday.”

“I’ve been to a lot of Premier League 2 games recently to watch the games. I am watching the games going ‘What is this? This is not real football’. You’re not preparing these lads to go into the world and the job sector that they’re going into with the correct schooling.

“The money that has been pumped into it, a minimum £1-2million to run an academy at Premier League Cat 1 level. I’m looking at the officials going where is the money for our officials in the real football of League One and League Two?

“Why are our lads part-time and it looks like we’re getting at least the level of officiating at Premier League 2 football, which I’m telling you is non-contact football. It’s like watching the ABAs as opposed to the heavyweight title fight. It’s like sparring with head guards on. You’re just not preparing these players for it.

“The people who set the syllabus for it, they’re not football people. They’re academics, they are not people who have gone on the journey. They have not started on a council estate and gone to the Premier League. They don’t know the steps that it takes.

“They’ve read it in a textbook and they don’t swear around them, don’t do this, don’t do that. Great. As soon as you get in a stadium, you’re getting abused by 50, 60, 70,000, whoever you’re playing against and the problem we’ve got in the game at the minute is we’ve got it out of kilter.

“Players are the most important thing and you need them out playing. Clubs should not be allowed to stockpile talent. If you’ve got 11 players for your first team on Saturday, great.

“You don’t need 87 players. You’re killing everybody else. Not only have you got the most money, you’ve got all the players and you control all the markets.

“I’m this side of the fence now. You don’t see that when you’re playing in the big league because you’re only worried about playing every week. When you come down here, you realise ‘My god, how is our game going to survive?’ Because if we don’t have the opportunity to take a chance on people who have come up short at other clubs and get a revenue stream from that, unfortunately, we’re going to constantly be feeders to the big monster up the top, which is the Premier League.

“My belief is we need to get these talented players out of this machine that is grinding them into dust. It’s a meat grinder to a bottleneck between 18 and 23. They are keeping them in the academies far too long, they are loaning them out and they are just killing people.

“Antony Evans is a prime example of that. He is somebody who has been loaned out all over the gaffe and then all of a sudden he gets an opportunity to have a home and has a chance at a career. That is happening at 23 when it should be happening at 18 or 19. You only have a shelf life now if you are a top player due to the athletic output of the Premier League.”

‘Billionaire owners coming in from Neverland’

“Our fans will get disheartened and they will stop coming to the game and I think I am speaking for all clubs probably outside the Premier League. Why bother spending £100 to take you and your missus and kids to the game if the game is full of crap players and refs are crap and they can’t keep up with the speed of play and you’re not seeing any goals, you’re seeing a team play 5-4-1 playing for throw-ins and rolling around. Why would you waste £100 on that? You’d go to the cinema and watch the new Batman that’s coming out.

“We’ve got to be careful here because in a short period of time, people are going to be faced with these consequences. Do I turn the heating on and feed the kids, or do I go and watch the footy? I’m telling you if we’re not careful, people will leave the football, nothing good happening there. People will buy a BT subscription and watch Man City because they’ll score nine goals.

“That’s what’s going to happen in the game. They’ve been after this for a long time, you’ve seen it with the European Super League. They are after an NFL style with no promotion, no relegation, billionaire owners coming in from Neverland who have got a club here and all they want is TV revenues guaranteed every year because we’ve got NFL owners and countries that own our teams.

“They don’t want what we know it to be, community hubs where football is for the people, by the people. They don’t want that. They see it as a revenue stream with merchandise. You’ve seen it at West Ham’s stadium. £7.50 for a beer, what planet is this?

“They’ve got to stop looking at the fans as a consumer. They are football. Without fans and the energy in the stadium, football is absolutely nothing and if our fans don’t have players like Elliot Anderson or Connor Taylor to grasp onto, why are you going to come and watch the game.”

Officiating, tactics and the effect on the product

“We had (Steve) Cotterill last week with his cowboys in town who don’t want to play football, want to foul and write to the FA after matches to get people banned and want to shout all madness to our fans when our fans shout. That ain’t football for me. No one is coming to watch you, Steve. They want to watch the team on the pitch play football and the sad thing for me is what entertainment, what are we giving to these people?

“They are paying their hard-earned wages to come and watch us and what are we giving them? We’re trying to play footy and do the right things and we don’t have all the components in our team the way I want our team to play at this moment. I want to entertain our fans like we did last year and take them on a ride.

“But if the officials aren’t on board with that, we’re knackered because Morecambe will be in our stadium on Saturday with Derek Adams, 5-3-1-1, 5-3-2, whichever way you want to dress it up. You thought Shrewsbury were defensive, you ain’t seen this crew in town.

“It will be ‘Take the crowd away from them, let’s take all the energy out of this stadium and let’s make this a bore fest so they’re fans aren’t singing’, and then the ref is delighted because they don’t know because on the whole they haven’t played football, so they don’t really know what the opposition are doing when we’re going ‘They’re breaking the game up. These 9,000 have paid to be in here and they don’t want them partaking in the game’.

“The refs, you try to speak to them about it and they’re so arrogant. You can’t educate them. I can tell by the way they tie their shoelaces on their football boots that they’re not football people.

“Unfortunately, when non-football people set the directive for football people, we’ve got our arse about tit. You need to sit and listen to people who’ve produced.

“We want the same as you guys, we want exciting football, we want a boss game of football, we want tackles in the game. We don’t want anyone getting injured but we have to have contact because it’s a contact sport. We want end-to-end, we want fans engaged, we want players scoring and going into the crowd.

“Why don’t you want that? Why are you trying to sanitise it? That is football, that is emotion, like when we scored at Walsall when we’re on a bad run and haven’t won away from home for a year. That for me is priceless. Imagine if that happens to Sylvester Jasper this weekend and he can’t? That’s what you do it for, that energy is what we do it for.

“Otherwise we might as well go play crown green bowls and nobody wants to f***** watch that because it’s s***. Nobody buys a Sky subscription to watch crown green bowls because it’s crap.

“People pay for football, people pay thousands of pounds that they haven’t got to watch Liverpool at Inter Milan on a Tuesday night because they know that creates something magical and it’s their life. You don’t get that in other sports. Some other sports don’t have the capacity to move you emotionally in that way and if we’re not careful, in the lower leagues we’re going to kill ourselves by allowing this type of football to creep in. Football that is for the people, not by the people because it bores you to tears.

“I was vocal about it last week and only the way they have responded, they’ve cited Jordy to get him banned, and we could argue Marlon Pack stamps on Antony Evans in the Portsmouth game. There was no retrospective ban for Marlon Pack. I sent the clip to Mike Jones, I filmed it when I was watching the game back on the Sunday morning. The ball is gone two seconds when Marlon Pack stands on him, no retrospective action. Lo and behold, I criticise the referee the week before and all of a sudden we have retrospective action for our players.”

Punditry and the media

“I’m one of the lucky b******s, I have made millions of pounds out of the game. I don’t have to do this for money, I’m fortunate. I do this because I feel I love my profession and we have a duty of care for the lads who have made silk purses out of the game who have feathered their own nets have a duty of care to speak about the game correctly.

“All the d***heads I see when talking about the game. You see fellas talking about the game who are absolute imposters when they played. They didn’t do it right and they are telling people how to behave.

“I just look at the telly and think everybody on the telly and I didn’t get this when I played, are absolute divvies. The people talking on the tele aren’t the men that I remember. You want to set your barometer by Souness and those boys, they were before my time, I didn’t see them play when they are on talking about footie on Sunday you listen to it. You have respect for Des Lynham, Alan Hansen, and Mark Lawrenson on Match of the Day. With the greatest respect and I won’t name names because it’s not fair for me to do so, I’m seeing players who have played in the same generation as me who weren’t the greatest of professionals.

“The game is surrounded by absolute nonsense. For me, I am fortunate enough in terms I can just speak however I feel like speaking and it is going to p**s people off, I get that. It needs saying we have to protect the game from itself and the b******* that has crept into the game is just scary.

“The media is full of nonsense, the game is full of absolute nonsense.”


“We need our referees to referee the games properly. let the game flow, stop ruining the game by stopping the game all the time. They aren’t full-time. Our lads are fully fit and they train five times a week. How can you ask somebody who doesn’t train full-time to keep up with them?

“It’s tough and I know it’s not easy, the game is awash with money. How do we know? Look at deadline day and the money that is exchanging hands between the top clubs. How hard is it for us to have full-time officials?

“I’m a good player, he’s a good player, but if the official in the middle of it is s**t, it doesn’t matter how much talent I or he has got, we are going to be officiated by somebody in the middle of that. He is the conductor of the orchestra. If I am a bad player and he’s a bad player but the referee is good, it will make for a better game. He’ll make sure mine and his contest today will be a good spectacle. If the man in the middle is poor, it’s ruined for everybody.

“We need to invest in officials, we need to make all the officials in the football pyramid full-time and let the cream rise to the top. It will to a better spectator sport, it will make our fans come and watch it.

“I feel like I am on a rant here but my fear our fans are going to stop watching our team play. It’s not for us not wanting to play, why would you bother paying £100-150 if the ref isn’t going to allow the game to flow? We already know in the Premier League you get 59-62 minutes of the ball in play. If you are paying for a 90-minute product, straight away at the top level you’re only getting 60 minutes or that.

“How hard would it be for the FA to go we’ve got an elite development programme. You are looking at 70-80 full-time officials tops. Is that much? Another £85m dropped on Antony by Man United, I have never heard of him. Chelsea have dropped £80m on Fofana and bid for another midfielder from Ajax for £43m. It’s not like we haven’t got the money in the game. Who is going to pay for it? The teams who are paying the most. They should sustain the pyramid, the pyramid now is on a trajectory for the European Super League whether we like it or not, we’ve done absolutely nothing to protect the pyramid.”

‘They don’t care’
“We’ve got our knickers in a twist because we haven’t realised five teams are going to leave this league here so all of a sudden there was a unity. Everton and all those types of clubs like Burnley cared about the lower leagues because Liverpool and Man United want to leave so they realise we are absolutely knackered if they get off. So we are going to look after the pyramid?

“All of the sudden for the pyramid the danger passes and no one gives a s**t about the lower leagues anymore. They are all now bothered about ‘What can we get for us?’ We have got to forget that, stop allowing that to happen and to take care of our product. We have the greatest, most competitive football four divisions on the globe. I don’t think there is anybody with four competitive divisions at the level we got.

“Some would argue it’s not sustainable but due to the passion here with the fans that travel the length and breadth of the country watching their clubs and the community feel they have got. We are capable of sustaining four divisions just about. If we don’t take care of that and we try to sustain them on business models run in the past, it’s not going to be sustainable. We have already seen with Bury, it’s not going to be sustainable. I don’t get how we do it, we can’t continue down this path of madness where the money keeps going to the top.

“The people at the top, they don’t care about the pyramid. The billionaires from other countries and own other sporting franchises, they don’t care. It’s not saying in a Machiavellian way but they just have no interest in how the bottom two tiers of English football sustain. Beyond that, you are into the Conference, with Wrexham and other sides that don’t fit the FFP model. There are Conference sides that spend more money than us, it’s bananas.”

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