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Keegan urges Newcastle board not to dump Barton

Kevin Keegan will urge his Newcastle United board not to rip up Joey Barton's contract, despite the midfielder's conviction for assault and affray this week.

Barton, who is still awaiting trial for a second assault charge following a training-ground incident involving former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo, has been jailed for six months after he pleaded guilty to attacking two people in a drunken rage in Liverpool on December 27 last year.

The Journal says chairman Chris Mort and owner Mike Ashley are contemplating whether to terminate the contract of the 25-year-old - who was signed by former United manager Sam Allardyce for £5.8m last summer - on the basis of gross misconduct.

But Keegan, who gave a positive character reference in a letter to the court, appears set to defend the player and will urge the club's power brokers to give him the chance to help rebuild Barton's life and career at St James's Park when he is eventually released from jail.

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