NEWCASTLE boss Joe Kinnear will not allow the furore surrounding Joey Barton to cloud his judgment ahead of tonight’s must-win clash with West Brom.
The Magpies head into the game looking for their first Premier League victory since August 23 and still licking their wounds after Saturday’s derby defeat at Sunderland, their first on Wearside for 28 years.
Barton proved a central character at the Stadium of Light despite being on the field only for the last few minutes following his return from a six-game disciplinary ban.
Barton was pelted with bottles and coins as he warmed up on the sidelines and infuriated baying home fans when he kissed his badge in their direction as the temperature rose inside the Stadium of Light before eventually erupting at the final whistle.
However, while a national debate rumbles on over Barton’s continued presence on Tyneside following his prison stretch and his attack on former Manchester City teammate Ousmane Dabo, Kinnear is concentrating solely on what the 26-year-old can do for his struggling side.
“I am not going to listen to people or pay lip-service to anybody. I am playing Joey Barton because he is a good player,” he said.
Barton could find himself pressed into service from the off tonight with Nicky Butt missing.
The former Manchester United star was a doubt for Saturday’s game with an ankle problem, and had a painkilling injection at half time after suffering a dead leg.
Despite the absence of Butt and skipper Michael Owen, who will do well to make Monday night’s clash with Aston Villa as he continues his battle against a groin injury, Kinnear is confident the players he inherited from Kevin Keegan can drag the club out of trouble.
He said: “I think our best 11 players are capable of beating anybody in that league.
“It’s a must-win for us against West Brom and if we do achieve that, then there’s a whole new slant on it, the picture looks completely different.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved