Joey Barton has lamented the decision to postpone Fleetwood Town’s game against Sunderland this weekend, questioning the confidence the would-be hosts have in their own squad.
With the game originally scheduled for Saturday, it is now likely that the Cod Army will have a midweek journey to the North East, a round trip that could extend to more than six hours.
Barton admitted it’s a big blow for fans and examined the need that Sunderland have to rearrange the clash with Town also missing Harry Souttar thanks to his international duty with Australia.
“It’s a sickener,” he said.
“It’s always easier if you’re off work on the Saturday and you can make a weekend of it.
“But it is what it is, we have to understand that they have three internationals.
“I think they’ve got the third choice keeper for Scotland, second choice right-back for Northern Ireland and another second or third choice centre-back somewhere for one of the home nations.
“We miss big Soutts but we have confidence in our squad and we’ve said ‘no problem’.
“We’ve got someone who can step in and take that opportunity.
“Sunderland clearly don’t think that they have.”
The game would have seen Barton lock horns with the Sunderland fans again.
It’s a relationship stemming from Barton’s time with Newcastle United and the Town head coach had a tongue in cheek message for the Black Cats fans.
“I always love going back to Sunderland,” he said.
“Usually the affection they show to me says that through the course of the year they must pine for me.”
The game would have seen third-placed Town try to close the gap on the top two with victory against a Sunderland side sitting in sixth place.
However, Barton thinks Sunderland were smart to avoid his side and claimed they were the last team the Black Cats would want to play right now.
He said: “Smartly, Sunderland have decided to rearrange that game.
“I think if I was in their position and I had the option to do that, based on our momentum, their momentum, our team, their team, the managerial situation...
“If Joey Barton and Fleetwood rock into town on Saturday and do what we can do, that we’ve shown, that we did to them in the home game, that we did to them last season when we went up there with a group nowhere near as strong as what we’ve got now, if there’s rumoured takeovers and there’s a little bit of uncertainty; we are the last team you want to play.
“Especially with my reputation with the Sunderland fans, I know how much of a fans’ favourite I am up there.”