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Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Friday, 8 April 2011 17:34 UK

Newcastle manager Pardew unfazed by Barton comments

Joey Barton
Barton has scored five goals in 28 appearances this season

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is standing by midfielder Joey Barton following his outspoken comments this week in the French magazine So Foot.

The 28-year-old said that he was the best English midfield player and that he will not sign a new contract for his club until they prove their ambition.

Pardew told BBC Newcastle: "Joey is an opinionated person and that isn't a problem for me."

Barton is captaining the Magpies in the absence of the suspended Kevin Nolan.

The Liverpudlian has enjoyed a strong season for Newcastle with his passing and ability at set-pieces being widely praised for helping the side to ninth in Premier League.

And Pardew said: "He's striking the ball, he's connecting with the ball so well that he's a problem for the opposition."

His manager believes that the Newcastle captaincy is a fitting reward.

"He does deserve it for the performance and the discipline he's shown," said Pardew.

However, in November Barton was handed a three-match ban after punching Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen at St James' Park.

A controversial player, he joined Newcastle from Manchester City in a £5.8m deal in June 2007, four months after he had made his full international debut for England.

However, the following year, he served two months of a six-month jail sentence for attacking a man during a night out in Liverpool.

But Pardew has been impressed by Barton: "It's off the pitch that Joey has corrected a lot of what was wrong with him as a professional footballer."

Barton's recent comments have not changed the manager's opinion.

"On the other side of it, if you had people without opinions, without that maverick streak then you wouldn't have talented individuals," he added.

"You wouldn't have Eric Cantona, you wouldn't have George Best - some of these players, their make-up is that individualism."

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