JOEY Barton can play on at the top for another six years, according to Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew.
And Pardew is just hoping the midfielder sees out the rest of his Premier League career at St James’s Park.
Talks on a new deal for Barton – who is out of contract next year – have been reluctantly put on hold until the summer.
United had reached a verbal agreement with Barton and his representative over a deal which would have involved him taking a pay cut, but it was never signed.
Pardew, however, remains hopeful a fresh agreement will belatedly be reached in the summer to prolong his association with the club, though there will undoubtedly be interest in him at home and abroad.
“I’ve had a great relationship here with Joey, and he’s got four or five years, maybe six, still left at the very top,” said Pardew.
“If he stays in the space he’s in now, he’ll have a successful period. I think I understand him, and, in my own way, I’ve tried to assist him.”
Barton has been teetotal since he committed an assault in Liverpool in December 2007, for which he was later jailed.
And Pardew is full of admiration for the way Barton has turned his life – and his football career – around since a troubled and injury-hit first year at St James’s Park, the 28-year-old having finally rediscovered the form which saw him win an England cap at Manchester City.
Barton has been hugely influential this season on the right side of midfield, and Pardew is hopeful he will return from a thigh injury at Stoke City on Saturday, his absence having been keenly felt in Newcastle’s last two games.
“Make no doubt about it, he’s had help from Sporting Chance and his mentors, as well as Chris Hughton and me,” Pardew went on.
“But it’s all about Joey, and he has to be able to see it through.
“He doesn’t drink alcohol now, and that is a wise decision given the character that he is, and you have to pay credit to him for that.
“Joey is not a normal footballer – he’s quite eccentric for a footballer.
“His eccentricity extends to his game too, and he does things on a football pitch that are eccentric at times. That’s what makes him the player that he is.
“He has been consistent on the pitch, because he’s been consistent off it with his behaviour, and Joey’s behaviour is a reflection of where he is at.”
Pardew, however, conceded Barton was “upset” in last month’s defeat at Fulham, though he wouldn’t reveal why.
The fixture came just two days after Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool, a decision which hit the dressing room hard given the striker’s importance to the team.
“He carries his heart on his sleeve a little bit still, and there have been games we’ve played when I can think he’s been upset,” said Pardew.
“When he’s upset, it can affect him. At Fulham he was upset about something – and I won’t go into reasons why – and he didn’t play well. His set plays were off that day, but he needs to be in a good place to play well.
“He’s worked really hard off the pitch. Nobody understands that better than him, and has worked harder at it than him.
“You have to pay him full tribute for that. From where he was not that long ago, it’s a tremendous feat from him, and long may it continue.”
H Newcastle’s home game against Manchester United, which had been scheduled for April 16, will now have to be rearranged after the Red Devils progressed to the FA Cup semis, which will be played that weekend.