Alan Pardew has urged Howard Webb not to assume the worst of Joey Barton should the Newcastle United midfielder become involved in any controversial incidents during Saturday's north-east derby at the Stadium of Light.
"The referee needs to make sure he referees the game from a completely neutral point of view because Joey has been in the press a fair bit this week – more than Joey would have liked and more than I would like – and I'm sure he'll get a mention in Sunderland's game plan," Newcastle's manager said. "He's a very, very good player and they'll need to stop him but I've got no qualms about throwing Joey in there, no doubts at all. But the referee will need to be astute."
While Webb, the match referee, may feel he needs no such guidance – never mind what the Football Association thinks of one of its most experienced referees being given it – Pardew is clearly concerned Sunderland will aim to provoke a midfielder whose less than glorious actions played a big part in Gervinho's sending-off when Arsenal visited St James' Park last Saturday, which was overseen by Peter Walton, above. "Joey will tell me: 'They'll target me, gaffer,'" he said. "But I'm sure Steve Bruce will be worried about him, Joey will concern Sunderland. One incident got highlighted against Arsenal but Joey's performance was very good, one of the best on the pitch."
Barton is usually not one for regrets but it appears he wishes he had thought twice before, erroneously, calling Gervinho a cheat and telling Alan Shearer to "Sort it out slaphead" during a series of combative Saturday night outpourings on Twitter.
"I think Joey regrets his tweets about the Arsenal incident," Pardew said. "I think it's hurt him a little bit. Me and him have had a lot of conversations about Twitter and his profile and everything else and I think he now understands that the best answer he can give is with his performances on the pitch.
"He's been a lot quieter on Twitter this week and I think both he and us are better for that. It's not just about Joey it's about Newcastle United. All the fans who really love Joey love him because he's a footballer."
Not that Pardew contemplated banning Barton from Twitter. "In today's society I can't tell Joey to shut up, just like I wouldn't tell anyone else to shut up in their private life," he said. "He is his own person. All I can give him is my advice and guidance and I have definitely given him that."
Newcastle's manager had hoped to have signed a new left back and an extra striker this week but his move for PSV's Dutch international full-back Erik Pieters has stalled.
While borrowing Manchester City's Wayne Bridge on loan remains a possibility, Newcastle have made a definite offer for Modibo Maiga, the Sochaux and Mali striker who is doing his best to force through a move to Tyneside.
"There's a lot of stuff come out about him being on strike and we can't condone that," Pardew said. "But we have put a bid in for the player and negotiations are ongoing."
Newcastle's manager rejected suggestions that Mike Ashley, the club's owner, was dragging his transfer market heels. "I think he's very much aware of our needs," Pardew said. "I don't think I need to nudge Mike any more – I've nudged him enough!"
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