Monday, 22 March 2010

Take A Seat, Joey

The news coming out of SJP is that Joey Barton is ready for a return to first team action against Doncaster tomorrow night and I don't really know what to make of it.

Barton is undoubtedly a talented player but he has never really lit up the pitch for Newcastle and has failed to really dominate the middle of the park in the way that you often imagine he could.

Should we be happy to be welcoming a bit of strength in depth, or worrying that it could unsettle the squad at the worst time of the season?

I would expect Barton to take a place on the bench for the trip to the Keepmoat but when he it is decided that he is fit to start, who could possibly be dropped from the Newcastle midfield?

Jonas led by example on Saturday evening with his unfaltering work-rate helping to drag the Magpies back into the game at Bristol City. Danny Guthrie has grown into his role in the middle, a position that has always suited him far better than playing wide and Kevin Nolan and Wayne Routledge have become vital to the Toon with their respective abilities to score and create goals.

So what for Joey? A place on the bench is all that seems to fit. His attacking talents have been overshadowed by Nolan's terrific season and his defensive abilities will almost certainly fall second to Smudge, who is expected to be back to face Forest next Monday.

Even Smudge will find it difficult to oust Guthrie in his current form as the former Liverpool man has shown his ability to supply real quality in the final third. Something Carroll and Lovenkrands have thrived on in recent weeks.

There is one way back for Barton. A change back to 4-4-1-1 would make space for Barton in the middle of the park as Kevin Nolan pushes forward to play off Andy Carroll. With Lovenkrands injured and Best not showing his ability it is a real possibility.

However it's not a change I'd welcome. I always prefer playing 4-4-2 and whilst Best is yet to score he has integrated himself well into the side and came within a whisker of opening his account on more than one occasion at Ashton Gate on Saturday.

Last time I wrote a piece about Barton returning for the Toon the headline was Barton's Back With a Bang. At the moment I'd be more than happy if he didn't come back at all.

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