High on the list of appearances made for City by our Academy graduates, Joey Barton was given the chance to prove himself by the club after being released by Everton when aged 16.
City acted swiftly to move Barton along the M62 to Platt Lane, and after a solid few years in the youth team and the reserves, he was given his chance in the first team by Kevin Keegan for his debut against Bolton in April 2003.
That game, which also saw Stephen Jordan make his first senior appearance, ended in defeat but it did not take Barton long to make an impact. He bagged his first goal for the Blues just a couple of games later to help City to a win at White Hart Lane – something many of his subsequent team-mates never sampled.
He featured regularly throughout the following season, and Spurs’ home ground featured prominently again although this time for not for a good reason. Barton was sent off for arguing with the referee in the tunnel with City 3-0 down at half time of a FA Cup replay, and he could only look on as his team-mates launched an astonishing fight back, with Jon Macken’s header sealing a 4-3 win.
He established himself as a mainstay of City’s midfield under firstly Keegan and then Stuart Pearce after the latter replaced the former towards the end of the 2004/05 season. At a time when the City squad was frequently tinkered with, Barton emerged with a lot of credit despite the Blues’ struggles which at times saw them staring at the wrong end of the table. Indeed, at times he was the senior figure in an engine room that often featured fellow Academy graduates Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson.
His eye for a goal remained and there were several memorable strikes, including a long-range blockbuster against Charlton, an in-off-the-bar penalty that sealed a rare win over Arsenal, as well as an equaliser that silenced Old Trafford and secured a derby day point in 2005.
Unfortunately off-the-field issues frequently blighted Barton’s time at City and he moved to Newcastle United in the summer of 2007, a few months after being capped by England. Four years on Tyneside brought highs and lows on and off the field before a recent transfer to QPR, where he hooked up with former City team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Talented and complex in equal measure, and now one of football’s most entertaining Tweeters, Barton never gave less than 100% on the pitch and remains one of our most successful graduates in the upper reaches of the game.