Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has praised midfielder Joey Barton after getting some of the best performances from the player of any manager.
The talented Englishman has always been able to perform on the pitch, but seemed unable to stay out of trouble off it, but at 28 a sense of maturity finally seems to be creeping into Barton’s behaviour and Newcastle are benefiting on the pitch.
After leading his teams inspiring comeback from 4-0 down against Arsenal to draw 4-4, Barton was at his best again on Tuesday as his team beat Birmingham 2-0 away at St Andrews.
Pardew was full of praise for his talisman and said: “I have to say Joey has worked very hard at turning his life around.
“That has been projected onto the football pitch.
“We are getting the best of Joey Barton probably at anytime in his career.
“I thought he was very unlucky to get booked against Birmingham with some of the other challenges that went on.
“Maybe there is still a slight stain against him.
“But for me, and I can only take someone as I find them, Joey has been superb.”
Pardew was also quick to thank his strikers, who have stepped up since the departure of £35million man Andy Carroll.
He added: “I think it is about getting the balance right and encouraging them and getting them to produce what is best for their particular game.
“They are not Shola Ameobi and they are not Andy Carroll. They are different types and we got the best out of them at Birmingham.
“I’m so pleased for Leon Best because I think there is a bit more pressure on him than Peter because he hasn’t really done a great deal at the football club.
“But he produced a great performance at St. Andrews and can be proud of that.