MICKY Mellon says Joey Barton’s stay at Fleetwood Town was just the boost his players needed.
And as the Highbury club prepare to unveil their 12th summer signing today, chairman Andy Pilley revealed just how close Town came to landing the QPR midfielder on loan.
The controversial Barton recently enjoyed a high-profile training stint with Town and played for them in a friendly against Kilmarnock, amid rumours that the ambitious club was on the verge of pulling off a six-month loan deal.
And although the sensational swoop didn’t quite come off, Mellon found time after Monday’s Capital One Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest at Highbury to praise Barton’s contribution.
The Town boss said: “We knew that everyone would want to prove to Joey that they were good players, and that’s exactly what happened.
“He was a big influence on all of us. We wanted to prove we were a good club with good players, and we certainly did that.
“He was great to have around and he leaves us with nothing but praise.
“His stay at the club was completely positive. We tried our best to bring him in on loan but QPR felt they didn’t want to do that.
“Sadly we have to move on but Joey will always be a good friend of Fleetwood Town.
“We knew that the agreement was going to end at some point but we made the most of it and it was great for the club.”
Pilley confirmed that the 29-year’s stay came close to being extended considerably.
He told The Gazette: “We came very close to signing him. We wanted to sign him and he wanted to come, but unfortunately something happened at the eleventh hour.
“Somebody at QPR did not agree to it and at the end of the day he is their employee.”
Town stated it was the London club who blocked the move, though the Press Association yesterday reported that the Football League would not sanction a loan deal by Barton to any of its clubs. The player is banned for 12 games after his sending off on the final day of the last Premier League season.
PA reported that the League is concerned such a move would bring the loan system into disrepute, as Barton would complete his ban sooner at a League club than at QPR.
Meanwhile, Pilley was proud of his club on the field and off when Forest visited this week.
Dexter Blackstock’s strike edged the tie for the four-time winners of the competition and the chairman said: “I thought we played really well and put on a very good show. We were slightly unfortunate not to get a goal and I’m very proud to have pushed a good Championship team the way we did.
“I felt we were the better team in the first half, and although they got their goal in the second we finished the game strongly. We just didn’t get the bounce of the ball.
“The match being on a Monday did not help but we still attracted 3,600. It was great to see that the interest is out there and that we can stage such a big game so smoothly.
“Now we expect another good crowd on Saturday,” he added as attention switches to the club’s first ever League game at home to Torquay.