Setting aside the lofty ideals of honour and sportsmanship that have been thrown around on this topic, there was a fundamental betrayal at the heart of this incident that should inform the club's response. As team Captain, Barton above all others had a responsibility to lead by example and steer his club to safety. At the time his elbow crashed into Carlos Tevez's jaw, QPR had just drawn level in a fierce contest that they desperately needed to take a point from. Bolton were winning at Stoke and survival was very much in doubt. For fifty five minutes QPR kept the eventual League Champions at bay and were demonstrating an unknown level of grit and determination to earn another campaign in the top flight. The outcome of the match - a valiant ten man effort and survival with the help of Bolton's draw - is irrelevant. The thought process, or lack thereof, of the player in that instant when so much was at stake willfully inflicting such damage on his own team, has to be evaluated.
For a man who moaned over the ridicule his dismal performances earned him this season, captaining the squad that beat Manchester City away and saving the team from relegation would have been the ultimate redemption. Instead he let his inner animal out and threatened to doom the club's fortunes. The elbow to Tevez was flagrant and no matter what abuse he was taking prior, unjustified. As a leader in a match with so much on the line, he had to swallow his pride and let it go - or at least flail about and try to draw a card as his counterpart did to such useful effect. But it was the second act of this melodrama that showed the depth of the problem. Realising he was heading off, Barton kicked Sergio Aguero in the backside hoping to provoke a fight and see a City player sent off with him. Something about roads paved with best intentions springs to mind, but it was a childish and disgraceful tactic. If Barton had shown that kind of creativity and spirit in the midfield during the season, this match might not have been so vital, and such desperate measures might not have seemed so appealing. What the Manchester City incident showed is that there may never really be an end to that underlying intensity, and at the worst moments he may lose control of it again with dire consequences.
Despite the strong feelings on this incident, it’s important to keep perspective. Players receive red cards frequently, often for foolish acts that they probably wouldn't repeat if given time to think about them. No one is calling for Djibril Cisse to be sacked, despite the idiotic nature of his throat grab or the studs-up challenge at Sunderland that cost him so many matches. It is a physical game and even the best players get heated or react stupidly when their dander is up. Why forgive Cisse and not Barton? Because Cisse wins games for QPR and Barton does not.
Number seventeen was effective during the run-in and raised his level to help the team in some vital matches, such as his displays against Arsenal and Stoke. For most of the season however, he was an average contributor and frequently a liability on the pitch. His corner and free kick service was an abomination and made worse by his incessant demands to take them. He was prone to mental mistakes, tackling late and risking cards or firing half passes that were picked off as United's Michael Carrick exploited so effectively at Loftus Road. He is also on the highest wages at the club and not returning enough value for the investment. Barton was handed those wages when he was desperately needed – but with a fresh start in the league, better players coming in, new investment in a training facility and more stability at the club, the situation has changed. He is a replaceable player and QPR should seize the opportunity to offload his salary and find a better contributor to the squad. Tony Fernandes has shown a pragmatic mentality and this is now a business decision, pure and simple.
The behaviour against City was enough to justify sacking him - but combined with the team evolution under way and his overall performance, this is the right time to part ways. A midfield comprised of Ale Faurlin, Jamie Mackie, Adel Taraabt and Samba Diakite is already strong, and Mark Hughes has yet to begin making acquisitions in earnest. Barton should be thanked for his service and made available for another team desperate or crazy enough to take on his wage bill and personality. Barring that he should be handed his papers so that the club can progress and continue to strengthen for next season. He played a role in keeping QPR in the Premier League, but for the good of the club his time in Hoops now must come to an end.