In 1957 John Charles transferred from Leeds United to Juventus to become one of the first british players to try his luck on foreign shores. The accomplished striker/ centre half is widely considered as one of the greatest all round players that Wales has ever produced. His move to the Turin giants turned a lot of heads at the time as it was for a then British record £65,000 transfer fee. Charles wasn’t the first (that honour lies with John Fox Watson who moved from Fulham to Real Madrid in 1948) but he is recognised as the trend starter. Following Charles’ move, several British nationals have moved to other countries with various degrees of success. For every David Beckham (Real Madrid) and Paul Lambert (Borussia Dortmund), there is Darius Vassell (Ankaragucu) and Scott Booth (FC Twente). Some struggle to adapt to the lifestyle or style of game that their new country plays but for a majority, the language barrier often is too hard to grasp.
A few footballers have adapted well, picking up the language like Michael Owen (he learned Spanish in three months after moving to Real Madrid) or David Platt (picked up Italian after his move to Bari and is now fluent). Then there are people like Joey Barton. The fearless midfielder, who left the UK to join Marseille on loan in the summer, has adapted to life in the south of france. He appears to be getting on well with his new teammates (so far) and has avoided trouble that appeared to be constantly perched on his shoulders at all times during his spell in England. He has even picked up the language, well sort of. Like most Brits abroad, when the language becomes a problem, there are one of two approaches – talk louder in a desperate hope that they will understand you or do as Joey did and speak English with a french accent.
The latter usually fools the press in that country allowing the player to get away with not knowing the language but unfortunately the media is now global so it doesn’t take long before they find out. This is what happened to poor Joey. Asked to speak to the french press after his long-awaited league debut against Lille this week, and so far unable to speak French, he decided to conduct the interview in English but with a french accent. The results are comical.
Barton starts off his interview talking about the game, highlighting key aspects of his performance:
“For me it’s important that people speak about the qualities I bring as a footballer. As i say, yesterday i make one tackle and all everyone speak about is this tackle, and no speaks about the 50 yard pass that kills Balmont and causes a red card for him”
Joey was asked about the former Manchester United and Marseille player Gabriel Heinze, a solid tackler like Joey in his day, and if Joey felt he was like him in any way as a player:
“ He’s Argentine, i’m English. Big Difference, Big Big difference. Big Ocean. The Atlantic. It’s different”
The interview and in particular the way Barton speaks brings back memories of another Englishman abroad, Steve McLaren. After joining FC Twente of Holland as manager in 2008, Steve was asked to take part in an interview with Dutch TV ahead of a crucial Champions League game against Arsenal. McLaren did the interview but again, like Barton, spoke english but this time with a dutch accent. The clip became a Youtube sensation and has haunted McLaren ever since.
” I sort of knew, when i came here… Champions League… Liverpool, Arsenal…i thought maybe one of them we would draw and it is Arsenal. I think, one of the toughest teams in the draw and i think it will be very very difficult for our players. For young players, big games, champions league… Arsenal… at home.. the emirates…”
Asked about his team’s chances of beating Arsenal, McLaren replied:
” I say, i think we are not just, what you call, underdogs, but massive underdogs”
Barton to be fair has been quick to ridicule himself on Twitter boasting ” Steve McLaren, eat your heart out” but it will not detract from the media attention which he will get from the British press after this interview. Barton has 6 months remaining of his french loan so has enough time to learn the language. But if he is unsuccessful, then perhaps a transfer to Holland to work with Steve McLaren is exactly what he needs. At least they speak the same language, sort of.
To see Barton’s interview, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3U-r8T31Ns
To see McLaren’s interview, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZnoP4sUV90