Joey Barton expects Bobby Grant to leave Fleetwood Town in January and says he sees no way back for the attacking midfielder.
Grant, 28, has been at the club since 2015 and scored the goal that sealed victory at Crewe Alexandra on the final day of 2015-16 to secure Fleetwood’s League One survival.
The fan favourite has featured 117 times in League One for Town since joining from Blackpool,and with his contract set to expire in the summer Barton expects his fellow Liverpudlian to move on in January.
Grant has found game time limited this season under head coach Barton, featuring just four league games and six in all.
His last appearance was as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Southend in September.
Grant had a disagreement with Barton over team selection ahead of the following weekend’s 3-1 defeat by Barnsley and has been training with Simon Wiles’ Under-18 squad ever since.
Grant did not feature in Tuesday’s 3-1 Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Bury, a competition Barton has used to give fringe players a chance to push their case for league action.
But after this week’s Gigg Lane defeat, Barton says Grant will not be the only senior player training with the youngsters as he prepares for a January clearout.
Asked what Grant’s omission from Tuesday’s squad says about his future, Barton answered: “That he is not part of our group.
“I do not envisage a period when he will be. I expect Bobby to leave in January unless something changes between now and then.
“We will address that. At this moment in time he is training with the Under-18s.
“He will be joined by a couple of others very shortly. The priority is the players who are going to affect first-team games.
“Nothing has changed. I have a very civil relationship with Bob.
“There is no personal animosity. It is just that we are going to go in a different direction.”
Town are out of the Checkatrade, having won none of their group games, but Barton said the competition was not a priority and he revealed the club turned down the opportunity to move Tuesday’s game back 24 hours, having played in the FA Cup on Sunday.
And Barton said some of those players who faced the Shakers will not be part of his future plans as he prioritises the progress of young players.
He added: “We decided to use it (the Checkatrade) in a different manner. Some sides will say it is £10k for a win, a Wembley final at the end and I can understand some sides who make a priority of it.
“It is a cup competition for me. We are a club in a little bit in a transition period.
“We wanted to prioritise an FA Cup run because we feel the revenue from that would compensate for what you would lose in this.
“We had 48 hours to this game. We could have moved it back 24 hours but we did not want to. We wanted to play it earlier so we could prepare properly for Walsall on Saturday.
“We do not want to lose games of football. I still felt we picked a strong enough side and our lads should be strong enough to not lie down the way they did in the first period, especially after taking the lead. Again, it is what it is.
“Unfortunately for a few lads, the reality is they are just not part of what we are doing and are not capable of taking the opportunity to stay in this squad.
“We have got to progress the young kids.
“If they (older players) are there blocking the way, then it stops a pathway for a young player and we have got to shift them.”