‘It was my lowest ebb’: Joey Barton opens up on mental health struggles and his lowest point at Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton has opened up on his mental health battles and his lowest point as Pirates manager.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton has opened up on his struggles with mental health.

Barton is enjoying a successful spell in charge of Rovers, helping the club to promotion back to League One.

Rovers have made a good start to the season, too, winning two of their first four games, acclimatising quickly to life in the third tier.

But things didn’t always go so smoothly for Barton, who has faced two court cases.

One related to an alleged assault during his time at Fleetwood Town, and he was found not guilty, while he now awaits a trial for an alleged assault of his wife.

Amid all that, and troubles at Rovers during his early days at the Memorial Ground, Barton has revealed he struggled with mental health.

“I had the two court cases – one football-related, one family,” he told Men’s Health.

“I’d been sacked for the first time, which I felt was unfair and unjust, and the rejection was hard to take. Then I get a job at Bristol Rovers. The club was dysfunctional, we were getting beat, the coaching methodology wasn’t working and we got relegated. I was finding it hard.

“It was my lowest ebb. Bad results, the court cases… With the football one, the police were on my case over something they wouldn’t even bother with if it’d happened in the street.

“But it’s Joey Barton, the outlaw character, so there you go. Waste of time, waste of money. I went to court in Sheffield, was found not guilty, but by then papers like The Sun have had their fill, saying I headbutted him, kicked him round the tunnel, knocked his teeth out…”

Speaking about how those mental health struggles can transmit to players, he added: “The manager’s energy is infectious. It sets the tone and it either lifts the building or sets it down.

“I had days when I wasn’t even coming out of my office. I was living away from home and family, up and down to Bristol, the club’s all over the place, the team’s not responding, the fans were chucking everything at me, and I get to a point of thinking, ‘I need to get out of this.’

“I can feel my mental health deteriorating. I’m waking up and not enjoying that feeling, looking in the mirror, not enjoying it, not feeling like I should. I felt I was the problem; I was the one holding things back.

“Then there’s this day. We’ve had a pre-season friendly, crap game. My missus is away with the kids in Wales and I’m meant to be joining them the next day.

Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton. Picture by Naomi Baker/Getty ImagesBristol Rovers manager Joey Barton. Picture by Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton. Picture by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

“I head home and get back at midnight. I don’t know if I told you, Al, but I got into gardening in lockdown. And I know I’m not going to sleep, so I decide to get my mining lamp and go out in the garden. It’s my pride and joy, my garden.”

On the improvement of his mental health, Barton continued: “The panic was telling me to tell someone. I know myself and I know it’s dangerous if I just internalise everything.

“I rang people close to me, family, and talked them through what happened. I said, ‘There’s no need to come, I just needed to tell you.’ I made a cup of tea and I turned on the telly.

“I think it was BBC World News. Then I must’ve fallen asleep because when I woke up, the TV was still on and the panic was gone.

“It went as quickly as it came. So I went to Wales to join the family. The whole thing really scared me.

“And if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. It’s why it’s important to be honest and get it all out in the open.”