Posted by: Pete Robertson | August 14, 2011

The Beautiful Game Turns Ugly.

We waited for over 80 days, but finally, after a long and football-less summer, the Premier League returned with a bang yesterday.

It may not have been the most bountiful opening day in terms of goals scored, but it was intriguing for a whole host of other reasons, none more so than the scenes sparked at St James’ Park.

The first incident here involved, you guessed it, Joey Barton. The Newcastle midfielder has had a turbulent summer which included a public Twitter row with the club, leading to him being allowed to leave the club on a free transfer. Now, having been picked to start the season opener against Arsenal, Barton once again finds himself in the back pages of the Sunday papers for reasons other than his footballing talents.

He first played the role of victim in the drama that is his life through 140 tweeted characters. After a fairly innocuous challenge, Arsenal ‘s Alex Song took the law into in his own hands, stepping on the achilles of Joey Barton who was on the floor at the time. This is a malicious act and has no place in football, and while the referee had no chance to see it, the FA will surely review the video footage and a ban will surely follow.

However, being Joey Barton the incident was never enough. He stormed off the pitch to remonstrate with the fourth official, and clearly the incident left his blood boiling. After this the rest of the game was played with a sour taste in the mouth, and it was to no surprise that just minutes later the passions of the match boiled over again.

Barton, protesting against an alleged dive from Arsenal new boy Gervinho, took it upon himself to grab the Ivorian striker, hauling him back to his feet, sparking a brawl between players on both sides in which Gervinho slapped Barton to the floor. Gervinho got his marching orders while Barton escaped with just a yellow card, leaving Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at a loss as to why the players didn’t receive equal punishment. In his post-match interview, Wenger commented that the referee again missed the incident, something backed up by the video evidence. He claimed “I think he has his back turned to the incident. If he had seen it, he would have sent both of them off, or nobody.” He went on to add, “It is a yellow to the two or a red to the two”.

Joey Barton clashes with Gervinho

These weren’t the only scenes of violence in the Premier League though. Having conceded four goals in front of their own fans, it already was a difficult return to the Premier League for Queen’s Park Rangers. However, a needless red card rounded off the game, defender Clint Hill seeing red for a headbutt to the midriff of Bolton’s Martin Petrov, although replays again suggest an elbow used by Petrov in the build up to the incident.

All we can hope is that today’s matches do not turn out to be a repeat of what has been quite simply a thuggish display from the League’s stars so far, and that the quality of play and plenty of goals are the main talking points coming from Chelsea’s visit to Stoke, West Brom against Manchester United, and Monday’s match of Manchester City taking on Premier League new boys Swansea.

How do you feel about Saturday’s matches? Should Barton have seen red? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your views. 

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