Joey Barton’s antics against Lincoln have been downplayed as “pantomime stuff” by Burnley boss Sean Dyche.
And Dyche will be content if that is the extent of the controversy the 34-year-old courts at Turf Moor, having had no issues with a man whose career has been marked by unsavoury incidents both on and off the field.
Barton’s run-in with Imps striker Matt Rhead, which saw the former England cap stand on the non-league striker’s foot before hitting the deck as he ran into his opponent’s arm, was widely derided across social media and sparked lots of debate on mainstream channels too.
However, Dyche has brushed off the incident regarding a player who has previously spent time in jail, and served lengthy suspensions in the game for altercations with both team-mates and opponents.
“I think it’s pantomime stuff, myself,” Dyche said of his midfielder’s flashpoint in the loss to Lincoln.
“I’ve got to be honest, I’ve seen a lot more controversy around Joey than that. If that’s as far as it goes, I’ll be a happy man.
“I thought by a mile, by an absolute mile, he was the best player on the pitch last weekend, and I mean by a long margin. On both teams.
“That’s just part of being Joey, I suppose. It could be a TV series, actually – Being Joey.
“It’s just the way life is now – people should actually have been saying, ‘What about the game? What about him?’ He was so far in front of everyone else on the pitch, it was incredible to look at. I really thought that.
“And I thought he was against Leicester as well. He was absolutely outstanding. Chelsea have two unbelievably high-quality midfielders, and I thought Joey more than dealt with what he needed to deal with. I think he’s been fantastic for us.
Barton may have escaped punishment from the Football Association in this instance, but there is still the possibility he faces sanctions for the charge he was issued with in December having allegedly made over 1,000 bets across 10 years.
Yet even with that hanging over his head Dyche still re-signed Barton in the new year, having been impressed by the much-maligned midfielder during his previous one-year stint at Turf Moor in last year’s promotion campaign.
“I’ve only really spoken about his time with me and Burnley,” Dyche added.
“I’ve never really commented on his time away from us; that’s a whole different thing.
“Myself, my staff, the team, the players here, Burnley Football Club, then…not a question mark for me.”
Barton was the Clarets’ player of the year before departing for Rangers in the summer and has now won his spot back in the middle of midfield.
Even after rejoining Burnley following their step up a division, and after an ill-fated spell in Glasgow, Dyche always thought Barton could slot back in seamlessly.
“I think when he came down he felt he had something to offer because he knew more about how we work here,” he said.
“He was willing to do the work to get ready to have a chance, rather than get the chance to get ready, fitness-wise and stuff like that.
“So when he did come in, he was ready. He’s always ready mentally, Joey, but he was ready physically. You can see that.”