Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton explains shift in recruitment model after last term's League One relegation scrap
Joey Barton has explained the reasons behind Fleetwood Town's shift in recruitment model since his arrival.
Barton said that, when he arrived at Town in the summer, recruitment was something he identified that needed addressing with creating a balance betweeen youth and experience his priority.
That had started in January when Town signed Paddy Madden and Toumani Diagouraga.
Prior to that the focus was signing players under 25 with a view to a profit; the January exit of Amari’i Bell to Blackburn Rovers one example.
Barton says young players like Kyle Dempsey and James Hill – who became Town’s youngest player for Town in the League Cup defeat at Leicester City – need experienced pros in order to develop.
Of his eight permanent signings only three are under the age of 30 after he swooped for Ross Wallace (33) and Ryan Taylor (34) last week.
They joined Craig Morgan (34), Dean Marney (34), Paul Jones (32), James Wallace (26), Chris Long (23) and Eddie Clarke (19).
Those are in stark contrast to the summer of 2017 when Uwe Rosler brought in the then 21-year-old Dempsey, 24-year-old Conor McAleny and last term’s breakthrough player, Harrison Biggins.
Harvey Rodgers joined from Hull City but was soon off to Accrington Stanley, Michael Donohue has not made it into the first team picture, while Sebastien Des Pres and Luke Higham are no longer at the club.
Barton said: “I think, like anything in life, you need a balance. That is key to anything.
“I felt, when I came in, it was a glorified academy team really; I think they were buying lots of young players in the hopes of selling them on at a profit.
“The problem with that is if you buy lots of young players you end up with a very young mindset.
“Young players tend to have developing minds and developing psychology of where they want to be as a team.
“I just felt it was out of kilter and that was reflected on performance and reflected on results, the fact they were in a relegation scrap last year.
“You need players you can be developing and players you can be wanting to progress.
“You also need a nice mixture of players who know the route map and can show younger players the standards on a daily basis.
“I think we are now approaching that. I think it will benefit the club over the medium and long term.
“For whatever reason the business model was ‘buy young and then look to move on.’
“While I take that on board and I have seen that done before, I think if it gets out of kilter and that is the strategy for every player, it can cause problems.
“The key for us is to make sure that Fleetwood Town are first and foremost a League One club this time next year.
“Last season, certainly when I started speaking to the club, there was a real worry that I might be managing a League Two club.
“Thankfully the lads got together and they pulled out a lot of results in the end to make sure that they were safe with a couple of games to spare.
“The club has to remember that in the name of making progress you have got to be careful not to regress.”
That isn’t to say that Barton is not a fan of fielding younger players.
He was the first manager to give a debut to one of Town’s category three academy players as Nathan Sheron came off the bench at Oxford United.
Last weekend, he also had three academy products on the bench at Southend United in Sheron, Billy Crellin and Ryan Rydel.
However, Barton confirmed there has been a shift behind the scenes since his June arrival.
Technical director Gretar Steinsson, who is still at the club, has not worked with Barton on transfers this summer.
Speaking about Steinsson’s influence on transfers, he said: “I think the role has been adjusted.
“I don’t personally work with Gretar. He works in different aspects of the club, that has changed since I came in.
“If I had a technical director to work with – no problem.
“I am used to working with and delegating with many people in football but for me I just have a little bit more of a linear conversation with the chairman (Andy Pilley) and chief executive (Steve Curwood).
“If I had £20-30m, even a couple of million to spend, it is different to working with loans, free transfers and lads that you have worked with.
“It is different for me because all of my career I have played in clubs and teams where, if you have an issue, you go out and spend a couple of million.
“At this level it is not the case and I don’t envisage that being the case; I don’t think in my tenure at Fleetwood we will go out and spend £10m on a player.
“At Fleetwood we don’t get the best in terms of loans either.
“We had good information before I joined about taking Reece James from Chelsea who has gone to Wigan.
“Obviously you register your interest, we can’t pay 18, 19, 20 grand a week for a loan. The Championship clubs are always going to get them.
“You are now shopping in a different shop. You are not in Tom Ford or Chanel, you are in a slightly different shop.
“Not quite Primark but certainly not in Tom Ford or Chanel wherever the top women’s boutiques are these days. You have to adjust to that.”