English Premier League side Newcastle United's troubled midfielder Joey Barton was spared jail Tuesday after he admitted assaulting a former team-mate in a training ground row.
A judge at Liverpool Crown Court, north-west England, instead handed the 25-year-old a four-month jail term, suspended for two years, for the attack on French midfielder Ousmane Dabo when they were both Manchester City players.
Barton, who was jailed for six months in May after admitting a separate assault during a night out in his native Liverpool last December, changed his plea to guilty before the start of a scheduled trial on Tuesday.
At sentence, Judge Mushtaq Khokhar told him that he was idolised by fans as a professional footballer but he had a responsibility to set an example, even in the face of provocation.
The court was told Monday that Barton punched Dabo unconscious, after a simmering row at City's training ground on May 1 last year that prosecutor Richard Vardon called “an “explosive combination of football and violence”.
A number of witnesses said Barton continued to punch Dabo while he lay on top of the player, who was in a dazed state.
Dabo, 31, who now plays for Lazio in Italy's Serie A, was treated in hospital for the effects of head trauma, an inflamed eye and bruised eyelids and told four days later he would make a full recovery.
He could not sleep for a week, suffered headaches for three weeks and was scared that his eyesight would be permanently damaged, threatening his career.
Barton, capped once by England, was sold to Newcastle in a 5.8-million-pound (11.6-million-dollar, 7.3-million-euro) deal soon after the incident.
Ten days after the Liverpool assault, Barton was back in court charged with criminal damage to a taxi in an incident in March 2007 but was acquitted.
Barton's agent Willie McKay said earlier Tuesday that the player would face talks with Newcastle bosses, including manager Kevin Keegan, but is aiming to return for pre-season training next week.
The Magpies, whom it has been reported will not sack Barton, said in a statement said only that they “noted” the sentence and intended to hold talks with the player and his representatives “at the earliest possible opportunity”.
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