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New manager sees midfielder as key part of his team

Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has backed bad boy Joey Barton to impress against his former club Manchester City, claiming the midfielder is in the form of his life.

The 28-year-old midfielder joined the Magpies after being forced to leave City because of a training ground bust-up with Ousmane Dabo. It proved one incident too many for the Manchester club, who sold him for £5.8 million in 2007.

While Barton has not been all goodness and light in his time at St James’ Park, he has produced glimpses of his best form — form that saw him gain an England cap while at Eastlands. And this season he has been a key member of the team, first under Chris Hughton and now under Pardew.

"Joey is very influential for this team. His quality of pass has probably been significant this year in a lot of the goals we have scored," Pardew told reporters.

"Obviously, I have not been involved in most games, but I have reviewed them and Joey has been the heartbeat of most of our good stuff.

"He is always going to have issues on the pitch because of the nature of his game.

"He is aggressive and sometimes he gets singled out a little bit, and sometimes, of course, he oversteps the mark just a wee bit, but not nearly as much or as often as he did when he was younger.

"He is experienced as a professional now and we are seeing perhaps the best of Joey Barton, and it's brilliant that it is in a Newcastle shirt."

It had been reported that Barton was to be made available in the January transfer window, with a number of Premier League clubs showing an interest in the midfielder. But Pardew has already seen what he brings to the team on and off the pitch.

He added: "He has been absolutely excellent. He has got an opinion about all aspects of the game, which I have no problem with.

"I think he feels he is playing well and that shows in training, and that's an important factor in Joey.

"If he feels he is playing well and he is on top of his fitness level, you will get the best out of Joey, and that's where he is."

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