Early Doors

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Early Doors

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On the back of Joey Barton's redemption from the penalty spot against West Bromwich Albion last night, Early Doors will be promoting a radical approach to the rehabilitation of violent offenders in the run-up to Christmas.

For too long governments have been fixated with incarceration, hard labour and physical punishment as the best method to cleanse the sins of the immoral, but ED has come to the realisation they've all been getting it horribly wrong.

The solution is far more straightforward and comes in a good deal cheaper to the tax payer. All you need do is take said offender, place him in a high-profile football team and allow him to take a penalty - from which the chances of scoring will be approximately 81 per cent (if he shoots down the middle, slightly less if he goes for a corner).

Flash back to the World Cup in 2002 and it was David Beckham who benefited from an early form of this therapy - completing his redemption for that petty hack on on Deigo Simeone in 1998 with a 12-yard shot driven straight down the middle of the goal. The England captain could hardly run during that tournament, but with one swish of his embossed boot won the fickle hearts of a nation.

And so it was last night, when Barton stepped up in the ninth minute to slot past Scott 'Croatia' Carson and erase all memory of his appalling behaviour with an unchallenged shot that he had neither made space for, nor deserved to benefit from. This was hardly a Stuart Pearce at Euro 96 moment. 

So who's next? OJ Simpson taking spot-kicks for Hull City? Russell Brand from 12 yards in a West Ham shirt? How about Stoke give Max Mosley penalty duties in their next home match?

Perhaps ED's real issue is the fact that penalties count as goals at all. Much as we hate to give rugby a hearty slap on its meaty back, there is sense to be found in its weighting of points for feats of varying difficulty. Score a try against a team of 15 superhuman beasts and you get five points; slot a conversion and your reward is just two.

Football is of course a different animal, and you could hardly make penalty goals count for less - one is a fairly small number after all. What you could do, however, is attribute just half a goal to the scorer, for he has achieved far less than the man who scores from open play.

This would lower Ronaldo's haul last season from 42 to 39 (just six were penalties), and Steve Bruce's remarkable tally of 19 from central defence in 1990/91 would become a rather less remarkable 13½ (11 were penalties).

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At the risk of offending proud feeders, fatties and binge-eaters the world over, ED has no choice but to bring up that man Ronaldo again (not the Portuguese prima donna, the other one).

It seems the greedy (for goals) striker has gone all Oprah Winfrey on us in an interview with Sportv television.

"I couldn't have got any fatter, I was running out of clothes," Ronaldo said.

"Everything on the table is nice but it makes you put on weight. Losing weight is the most difficult part.

"I'm making great sacrifices and, yes, I still dream about the national team. The national team is part of my life. I have an incredible history, of many conquests and also many defeats."

Please buy him Manchester City, if only for the benefit of this here column.

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ED is getting rather confused about Harry Redknapp's plans to buy the entire Portsmouth team. If 'Arry really wants seven or eight players from Fratton Park, the sensible move would surely have been to stay put and buy three of four from Tottenham.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Welcome to hell." The king of banter Arsene Wenger offers new Portsmouth manager Tony Adams a hint of what's to come.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The relationship between us [the squad and me] doesn't need to be put into question. A relationship does not mean we always have to be kissy kissy." Jose Mourinho is not best pleased with Internazionale strikers Julio Cruz and Adriano, who have both been left out of the squad for tonight's clash with Fiorentina. Visit the Serie A section of our site to find out why.

COMING UP: A bulging programme of Premier League fixtures on what we're rather originally calling 'Grand Slam Wednesday'. Follow all the action LIVE with our complimentary scoring and commentary service.

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