Joey Barton’s boyhood dream was to be a Premier League footballer and to play for England
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And after ticking off both targets, the 35-year-old has set a new goal to become one of the world’s best managers and says he knew six years ago that Fleetwood Town would be the starting point.
Barton began his three-year contract as Town’s head coach on Saturday and then conducted a high-profile press conference on Monday, during which he recalled his pre-season training stint with Micky Mellon’s League Two squad in 2012. It was then he decided Fleetwood would be the perfect launchpad for his managerial career.
At that time Barton had just received a 12-game ban by the FA for violent conduct following incidents while playing for QPR against his former club Manchester City.
To keep himself fit, he joined his striker pal Andy Mangan for pre-season at Andy Pilley’s Fleetwood and explored the possibility of signing for Town on loan.
Instead he opted for the sunnier climes of Marseille, but Fleetwood and their ambitious chairman made an impression and Barton has chosen Highbury to begin the next chapter of his football career, having hung up his boots after completing a 13-month FA ban for breach of betting rules.
Barton is pleased the timings have aligned and admits he is desperate to get out of bed every morning to develop his new coaching career.
He said: “I look around and I think where is the perfect start point for me? I’ve known for six years that it would be this club, from when I came here navigating a 12-game ban for the (Sergio) Aguero incident. I came to Fleetwood when they were starting their journey into League football.
“When I met Andy and found out what the club was about and their ambition, I thought that in time we could meet each other at a really nice crossroads.
“This could be a place where I could start that journey and luckily for me that opportunity came about.
“Now I’m just excited to get out there every day, working towards an elite level of performance and building an elite culture.
“It is so easy when the alarm goes off at 6.45am to get out of bed, but there have been times it has gone off at 10am and I have struggled because I have not been engaged. At this moment in time I can’t wait to get cracking.”
Barton rose through Manchester City’s academy ranks, making his Premier League debut aged 20 and going on to establish himself as a City regular.
The Liverpool midfielder’s one England cap was won as a substitute against Spain in 2007, and he can look back on a playing career which included the Premier League, Championship, SPL and France.
Now he is looking forward and said: “Very few people get banned for 13 months from football and come out of it being a manager of a very successful football club.
“I tend not to do things the same way as everybody else. For me life is exciting and this is an exciting part of my journey.
“You want to use all of the strengths you have amassed over the years, and try to learn from the times when you have maybe shown weakness and failed in environments.
“We all have dreams and ambitions as a kid. Mine was to play for England and play in the Premier League.
“I’d achieved everything I’d wanted by a relatively young age, 24. Then you are trying to stay there for as long as you can, then you start to realign and have different goals.
“I’m now in the second phase. I now want to be the best manager I can possibly be, dreaming about being one of the best in the world.
“Now I’m on that route map to achieving a second set of things I dreamed about. I’m very fortunate.”