Talented but controversial Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton was given the full support of the Premiership side's manager Kevin Keegan on Sunday.
The 25-year-old – capped once by England – is due to be released from prison next week after serving a six month sentence for assault but Keegan is adamant that Barton deserves another chance at re-establishing his credentials as a player and as a person.
“People have opinions, and you must respect those, but mine is to give him another chance and back him,” Keegan told BBC Radio.
“There are a lot of things he needs to put right – but I think he can do it.”
“Joey will be back with us towards the end of this month.
“It's well documented he's had his problems, but I knew of them when I took over. He's served his sentence, he's been punished for what he did wrong.
“The world is littered with people that have been given a second chance and taken it with both hands.
“I told him as long as from now on he did things right and started to rebuild the confidence of people around him, I would stick by him.
“The Joey Barton that we had in the last couple of months of the season was a much-changed character.
“I'm hoping that he'll come back and we'll get him fit. It's up to Joey to put things right now – he's got to win over a lot of people.”
Barton pleaded guilty to assault and affray after punching a man to the ground and pummelling his victim up to 20 times with his fists in an attack caught on CCTV in the city centre last December.
The former Manchester City star – who also stuck a light cigar into the face of a City team-mate at a Christmas party in 2004 – is serving a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, after a separate conviction for a “ferocious” training ground attack on former Manchester City colleague Ousmane Dabo, which left his victim unconscious and bleeding.
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