Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes Joey Barton is heading for the club's player of the year award.
Barton was in the thick of the action as usual on Sunday as the Magpies overcame Wigan 1-0 at the DW Stadium.
"He has been excellent, not just on the pitch but off it as well," said Pardew. "I take people as I find them and I think if he can continue in this vein of form, he could be Newcastle's player of the year. He has been brilliant this season."
The midfielder frequently created a menace with his deliveries into the box and also had a hand in Shola Ameobi's first-half winner - but courted controversy late on when he picked up a yellow card for a rash challenge on James McArthur.
Pardew saw that as sufficient punishment for a tackle he was convinced bore no malice, and the manager was keen to stress how impressed he has been with Barton, both in terms of attitude and performance.
"I thought it was a tough challenge, a typical Joey challenge, but I didn't think there was anything malicious in it - the yellow card was the correct decision," said Pardew, who was overseeing his fourth game in charge since succeeding Chris Hughton last month.
"I think Joey is aware that he carries that baggage from earlier in his career, but you are talking about a guy who has shown nothing but professionalism since I have been here."
Pardew's opposite number Roberto Martinez felt Barton might have been sent off but did not view the decision as a crucial factor in Wigan's defeat.
"To be fair, we were so bad, that I don't think that would have made a difference," Martinez said. "I don't think it's one of those moments that is a key decision in the game.
"I think it was a bad tackle and I have seen players sent off for the same action, but that is down to the referee to judge. I don't think it had a bearing on the result."
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