Rangers manager Mark Warburton has attempted to defuse any potential bad feeling between Joey Barton and Brendan Rodgers after the Ibrox midfielder seemd to suggest the Celtic head coach was experiencing a mid-life crisis.
Warburton insisted there was nothing malicious or disrespectful about Barton’s remarks which were made in an interview with a commercial radio station.
The Ibrox boss also pointed out that the pair are both members of the same golf club and Warburton expects Rodgers and Barton to be on good terms if and when they meet on the course.
“I’m sure he will,” said Warburton, when asked if Rodgers would take the joshing in good heart. “The important thing is that they are both at Loch Lomond Golf Club. That’s the big one.
“I think Joey Barton will give Brendan a few shots. Brendan is a good guy and I’m sure he will take it in the right context.”
The context was a Wednesday interview on Talksport in which Barton – who sparked all manner of badinage with his claim that Celtic captain Scott Brown wasn’t in the same league as him – was asked if he had met Rodgers since the two moved north in the summer. “I’ve not managed to run into him yet,” Barton said. “I know the places he goes and the places I go probably differ with the tan and the teeth and that kind of thing. They’re not the kind of establishments I rock up at. I’m not having a mid-life crisis.”
Warburton played down any suggestions of Barton indulging in trash talk. “I haven’t heard the interview. But I think it was very much tongue in cheek and it reads very much tongue in cheek,” the Ibrox manager said.
“You [press] guys like to hear about it. It gets opinion and a bit of banter going. There is nothing malicious. There is nothing disrespectful. I’m sure it’s a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic remark.
“If it was otherwise you tell me. But I can’t believe it was said in anything other than light humour.
“It’s what the game’s all about. It’s about banter, it’s about opinions. There’s nothing disrespectful there from Joey whatsoever. He’s a very intelligent individual. It’s just a bit of banter.
“I think he followed that up by saying he was aware of the importance of the games and how much it means to him to be involved in those games. So the serious part of that conversation was very apt and very appropriate.
“I’ve said before, Joey speaks his opinion. If I think it’s inappropriate, I’ll speak to Joey, that’s for sure, but up till now, he has given his views on players and that’s his view. He always says ‘in my opinion’.
“That’s what the game’s about. Fans have opinions all the time. David [Weir] and I will say so-and-so had his worst game of the season and he gets voted man of the match by the fans. It’s just opinions.
“Joey’s no fool. He knows the size of the club. He knows the size of the fan base. He’s a good speaker. He’s a football anorak. He loves his football and his facts and his data. He’s an avid reader. He’s a smart guy.”