Joey Barton has today been hit with an 18 month ban from all footballing activity after breaking the FA’s rules on betting, after he placed 1260 bets on football matches.
The ban means effectively Barton’s career is over, and he won’t pull on the Claret and Blue of Burnley ever again.
However, here, I will look at why Clarets fans shouldn’t be too disheartened and what future we have beyond Barton.
Fortunately, unlike in other seasons, we are blessed with quite a few options in Centre Midfield, with Ashley Westwood and Steven Defour patiently waiting for their chance to step in.
Barton has been solid in the midfield throughout his time with Burnley and without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. His grit and determination dragged us through on so many occasions last season, not forgetting his winner against Southampton and his dogged performance against Leicester where he almost single handedly dragged us to three points, this season.
However, of late his passing has been a bit wayward, and he hasn’t been his usual self. Whether that was because of this betting case or not, will never be known, but he had been spoke about as a potential player who could make way against Crystal Palace.
We are fortunate that we have players who can fill in, or else we could have been left in the same position as we were in 2015 when Dean Marney picked up an ACL injury, and we had no other centre midfielders.
Fans shouldn’t be too worried about who will be filling in for Barton, as we know we have players who can do the job.
Barton’s ban gives someone else the chance to step in and if they hit the ground running, they could secure a regular starting spot.
In Ashley Westwood, we have a player who can step in to great effect and he is more than capable of filling the void left by Barton. Westwood showed in his brief stint in the side that he is competent at Premier League level, and his ball retention is up there with the best of them. His composure on the ball could be something that benefits the Clarets in the run in.
Not forgetting Steven Defour, who may also get the run of games in centre midfield that he has been craving for so long. We’ve seen glimpses of what Defour can do, but since he has been pushed out wide, he has been almost invisible, so getting him playing through the middle again, may be a defining moment in the Clarets season.