NO sports journalist in their right mind would decry the welcome relief of original thinkers, and unguarded speakers in the ranks of professional football.
Anyone who has interviewed one of the growing band of PR-groomed players that speak mostly in platitudes, say precisely nothing, and reserve their genuine personalities for Twitter or the changing room, must be grateful for the shrinking breed of out-spoken sportsmen.
So, this column is never going to criticise players like Joey Barton for consistently being opinionated and controversial.
But this week I was asked whether the feisty Newcastle midfielder would make a good addition to Everton’s current ranks and, after some thought, the answer was no.
First and foremost, Barton may be an avid Evertonian, but the Huyton-born player seems settled on Tyneside and keen to get himself a new deal (more of that later); even tweeting ‘Thanks but No Thanks’ to rumours of a Goodison move.
Then, remember that David Moyes is blessed with an abundance of skilled midfielders, and if he can keep Marouane Fellaini fit for an entire campaign he has all the spike and aggression in that department he needs.
Some point to the 28-year-old’s impressive ability to create goals as a reason he should be returned to the Royal Blue fold, but Everton are hardly lacking in that calibre of provider either, with Mikel Arteta, Leon Osman and Leighton Baines providing plenty of assists.
But, his undisputed ability aside, the main reason Moyes and Everton would be better off avoiding Barton is something he would struggle to discard if he played for another 20 years – his baggage.
Barton may not be as toxic as El Hadji Diouf, but he is still one of the nearest things to a sure-fire headache a manager can sign in the Premier League.
Even his response to those tweets asking about Everton rumours, showed a man who courts controversy with relish.
“I can’t sign a contract if am not offered one?”
He then continued on the topic, appearing to mock the club’s transfer policy before stopping himself. “I will tell all when the time is right, basically they want a younger, better, cheaper player............cant blame Mike (owner Mike Ashley) and Derek (managing director Derek Llambias) can you?” he said. “.......slight problem is, they don’t want to spend any money or pay any wages. Its genius really ha.
“I am an employee so have to be careful here. Everyone knows I’d love to stay, i get on with Pardew (manager Alan Pardew) fine and are dressing room is 1st class.
He added: “if am not offered a new contract, my hands are tied. I will continue to do everything in my power to bring a trophy to St James next season.”
Barton may be spot on with his dig at Newcastle’s board, and his embracing of social media is another reason why he is a sports journalist’s dream – but sarcastic Tweets would win him no friends on Merseyside.
Rampant ego is the ultimate problem Moyes would have to take into account if he was ever tempted to take on the midfielder.
Let’s remember, this is the player who told a French football magazine: “’Honestly, I think I’m the best (English midfielder).
‘Luka Modric and Samir Nasri are very good, but in terms of English players Jack Wilshere isn’t bad, Frank Lampard’s on the way down and Steven Gerrard’s been injured a lot.”
That was before he embarked on an amusing rant about Gareth Barry, and the staid state of England tactics.
Everton thrive consistently on the back of a terrific dressing room, with refreshingly few major egos, that is jam-packed with key players who put the concept of team before themselves.
The addition of a destabilising agent like Barton would be counter-intuitive for Moyes, and his chairman Bill Kenwright, who likes players to behave respectfully and professionally.
Barton is a risk neither is likely to feel worth taking.