In an interview with The People, Barton says he's changed: “Obviously I conformed to the footballer thing before, otherwise I wouldn't have bought a £100,000 car. But you change as you get older. I’m 29. I’m not a young footballer any more. You grow up and see things in a very different way.
"I thought it was so wrong that I had a collection of designer watches worth hundreds of thousands. People are struggling to put food on the table and there I am with flash watches and cars. I told my PA to get rid of them. I can get a Casio watch for £6 which does the same job.
"I am about to sell my Aston Martin to buy a Prius. I am sick of paying the Government all that tax on petrol. It costs me £100 to fill my car and that only lasts me a few days. A lot of that money is going to the Government. On top of that there is a higher tax charge and because I am a footballer my car insurance is ridiculous. I am also getting a moped. It is so much quicker to get around London because the traffic is so bad.
"I think I am definitely misunderstood by people. All they knew about me before was that I had got into trouble in the past. Now I spend a lot of time reading. People look at my Twitter and see the things I write and they’re, like, ‘Who is that freak?’ But it’s me. I love looking at the outside world and taking notice of things. It is so interesting.
"I have been offered lots of book deals but I’m not sure what to write about yet. I am into the environment and what I really want to do is an ebook so there would be no paper which means there’d be no carbon footprint. That would surprise people a lot because it is not what they would expect from me.”
In May 2008, Barton was sentenced to six months’ jail for common assault and affray following an incident outside a McDonald’s in his home city Liverpool. He served 77 days. Weeks before his release he was given a four-month suspended sentence after admitting actual bodily harm against team-mate Ousmane Dabo during a row in training in May 2007. The bust-up ended his career at Manchester City, where he began as a teenager, and that summer he was transferred to Newcastle for £5.8million.
Barton, whose girlfriend is 24 weeks pregnant with his first child, has realised he can stay out of scuffles by avoiding bars and alcohol. “I stopped because I would be out drinking in the past and someone would come up to me outside a bar and call me a prick or something. If I was drunk I would go for them and if I hit them they would go to the police. So I find it better just to stay away from it now.” He was helped by Sporting Chance, the clinic set up by Tony Adams to aid high-profile athletes with addictions.
On politics he opines: “I was Labour until the Gordon Brown and Tony Blair debacle. Brown is a talentless idiot who I can’t believe was running the country. It was left in a mess. I don’t think the working class should be running the country and that’s coming from me – I am working class.
"I don’t like Ed Miliband either. He is a dickhead. His voice is so strange it’s like a Monty Python scene where you see the other MPs sniggering behind his back. I like David Cameron. I think he is doing an OK job. I am not a Tory, though, I have very left wing views on some things. You can’t really put me in a box. I have lots of different thoughts going on in my head.”