London: The misconstrued actions of Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton inadvertently threatened to overshadow his club's glorious return to the Premier League on Sunday, when he was at the centre of controversy thanks to what was incorrectly alleged to be a Nazi-style salute.
Barton issued a public denial through his club to insist that he was entirely innocent of any wrongdoing after he was the subject of internet debate following his goal celebration as he opened the scoring in the 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa.
While some observers insisted that Barton had been guilty of a fascist-style salute, the player quickly moved to emphasise that he was the victim of a gross misunderstanding from his internet detractors, stressing that his actions were solely connected with the moustache he had pledged to grow until Newcastle recorded their first win of the season.
"I was merely pointing out that the moustache was going to go after the game," Barton said as he spoke out in an attempt to defuse the latest controversy that threatened to blight his career.
"I'll be shaving the moustache off now that we have won. There are a few of the lads desperate to get it off. It is either the end of my moustache or the end of my relationship, so I'm glad it is going."
Barton, 27, has become controversial thanks to a series of unsavoury episodes, including a vicious training-ground assault on former Manchester City teammate Ousmane Dabo and an attack on a teenager in Liverpool that saw him jailed.