Hagon Hammers

Joseph, Joseph, Joseph………part of me (I think it’s the ileocecal junction) wants to like the wee man. A rogue, at times charming, witty, misunderstood, a cheeky chappy but like the aforementioned body part, it also appears he is full of fecal matter most of the time too. I think it was the Ultra’s at Marseille who welcomed him to the club with a 150-foot banner emblazoned with “Welcome, Sweet and Tender Hooligan”. He just can’t help himself, can he? But in this latest installment, it would appear he has done just that. Not content with being a multi-millionaire and having had the privilege of playing for some of the biggest clubs around, the self-styled and self-revering intellectual (he read The Famous Five, once) hard nut of football can add another ban to his already burgeoning rap sheet. But this one is quite special even for the cigar stubber. Let us be clear from the outset, there is a total ban on professional footballers betting on their sport. End of, no ambiguity. However, work with me, sit back, relax, close your eyes and just for a minute picture……. you and your mates have had a few down the pub after a pretty intense training session on a wet and windy Monday night, you’ve nipped home for a bottle of WKD Blue, you’ve drizzled on some Brut33 and you think before I go downtown and smash the crap of some unsuspecting passer-by or shout homophobic comments and grab your crutch in a lewd fashion or drive through town and break someone’s leg, throw dogs abuse at anyone in the name of free speech or get done for affray (and he called Lineker odious?) you think to yourself, ‘I’ll just place a single bet on the African Cup of Nations or a random 5 game acca on Gillingham’ a couple of leagues below where you play?…… Perhaps we might feel that an 18-month ban was a bit on the harsh on us even with the zero tolerance and no ambiguity surrounding players betting on their own sports policy.

But this wasn’t a couple of lays, was it? No, this was, according to the FA charge it is alleged that circa. 1260 bets were placed on football matches over a 7-year period. Of which at least five of the bets were placed on games he was playing in. We are also assuming he never nipped into the bookies with a dodgy tash and a flashers mack to whack a monkey down in cold hard muller from time to time. If you look at what the FA describe as the ‘most pertinent’ bets there are some ridiculous wagers that don’t look right. I don’t suppose a freedom of information request will work in this instance but I’d love to see his current account withdrawals over that period, wouldn’t you?

What riles most of the people I have spoken to about this is that Barton has ‘fessed up’ and yet feels that a calmly crafted statement which on one hand accepts his wrongdoings but then also goes on to claim that there was nothing untoward or suspicious about his actions, is suffice. As such expecting everything to fade quietly into the distance. Matter of opinion that! Joe assures us that nor was there any match fixing and according to his own proclamation his integrity isn’t in question. Which I think is a lovely touch if a touch sociopathic. Moreover, he believes no one can call into question his passion or dedication on the pitch and that there were and still are huge mitigating factors at play. Not least his addictive personality. Actually, I do call into question his commitment on the pitch. He has let his teammates and profession down on numerous occasion with his little boy tantrums. Moreover, he had the temerity to call Shearer out. No Joseph that is a man that was truly committed and gave 100% to the cause, without the need to go loco both on and off the field on a regular basis.

In the eyes of many, this parasitic sycophancy is simply disrespectful to the those who battle and suffer addiction problems or any mental health issue for that matter. To sit as the profane little Budha pretending to be a pawn, by sharing that this is just another chapter of his life and expecting everyone to understand and forgive him because the betting companies are to blame, is not OK. Neither is hiding in plain sight and using this as part of a viable defence. Nor is it satisfactory to simply confess and expect clemency by being theological. I didn’t see him raise this issue until after he was charged. Funny that! Does football have a problem as a direct consequence of the existence of gambling companies? I haven’t seen any decent science to answer that question one way or another. Does football enjoy the funding gambling companies provide? Yes, or they wouldn’t use them. Is there a moral obligation for football clubs and their staff including players to set examples to the wider society? Probably, but do they execute against this obligation? Perhaps not often enough. But I haven’t seen anybody come out and ask for a cessation of investment from gambling companies as they have done in the NFL.

My heart goes out to those people who are directly affected by this plague. Earlier this week we heard about Aaron Lennon and we wish both he and his friends and family well. Mental health issues come with such huge stigma and alas a lack of awareness, understanding, and funding to treat. The NHS cannot cope with this massive problem and at this critical time, even the Royal Princes have taken centre stage to help people understand or at least be more accepting and aware of mental health issues.

What the world doesn’t need is a self-serving narcissist rattling off mitigating circumstances while belittling a flagrant disregard for the rules, while muddying the water for those people who really need help and can’t get it.

I mean, of all the people, having battled through numerous complexities and challenges with anger and alcohol related addictions/issues, he had the resources and the support network, the money, the access to high-quality counseling and most importantly the experience to do something about it. Instead, he chose not to. He only has himself to blame; although it would appear he will try and lump at least part if not most of the responsibility on someone else.

Before I conclude, some context with the wider world outside of JoeySphere, the Last time I looked, other sports such as cricket which, as a sport is bigger (in pretty much whatever way you are measuring it in) in the Indian Sub-Continent than football is in on ours, betting on a match in which you are playing leaves you open to further investigation to ensure that spot fixing has not been committed.

My concluding twin-tailed caveat is thus. Firstly, I don’t wish any ill on Joseph especially when considering that any illness mental or otherwise can be totally debilitating, I am happy for him that he will get the ongoing treatment he requires. Moreover, if he has genuinely struggled to battle this disease again, even with all that support and experience he has under his belt, I sincerely hope he can find a way out. But equally, I hope that he will reconsider his appeal, eat some humble pie and instead add a silver lining to proceedings by dedicating his time to supporting mental health causes and charities. Perhaps then the pill will be less bitter for us all to swallow and some genuine good can come from this case.

But I’ll stick a bullseye on it that he doesn’t!