Joey Barton says he would love to sign Sheffield United star Ched Evans this summer as well as Fleetwood’s other loanees Harry Souttar, Lewie Coyle and the injured Jason Holt.
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But the Town boss accepts that is no straightforward task.
Striker Evans remained at Highbury despite interest from League One promotion hopefuls Sunderland and Championship relegation battlers Bolton Wanderers during the January transfer window.
Barton says the £2m-plus the Black Cats spent on agents’ fees last year matches his total budget, meaning Town could not compete with them for the signature of Evans, 30.
But Barton stressed it is not only Evans he would like to stay at Town, but also Leeds United star Lewie Coyle, Stoke City defender Souttar and midfielder Holt, who has returned to parent club Rangers after a knee injury ruled the Scot out of Town’s remaining six League One games.
Evans has a season left on his Blades contract, and asked if he would like to sign the hitman permanently Barton said: “It will be on the finances. I don’t have a magic wand.
“One side in our division (Sunderland) has spent more on agents’ fees than our entire budget. If they decide they want him there is nothing we can do about it. They were sniffing around him in January.
“He’s a great player, becoming a real leader in the dressing room. I’d love to have him but I say the same about Coyley, Soutts, Jason Holt – great characters, who really added to our group.
“We are hoping they like it enough here that if they are not playing for their parent clubs in higher divisions they will be part of what we are trying to build at this football club.”
Evans’ goals in Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Southend took his total to 16 for the season.
The only change to the side that had won at Accrington a week earlier was Harrison Biggins’ recall in place of the injured Holt, though Town played their best football after Ash Hunter and Ashley Nadesan came on for the second half.
Barton said: “We have to be a bit more smarter, a bit more ruthless. I trusted them to deliver a performance.
“I had a gut instinct on the team during the week and I need to start trusting that gut instinct.
“We made a change and I thought we were superb in periods of the second half, some really good football.
“I think if Paddy (Madden’s) goal had stood – he runs offside, which I don’t think he needed to – then we would have put a big number past them because they were a side severely lacking in confidence, hence they were not able to hold on when they took the lead twice.”