Joey Barton says that Kyle Dempsey needs to show his quality as he ups his return to fitness.
The 23-year-old was a first team regular at Highbury before Barton’s arrival in the summer of 2018.
Town were understood to have splashed out more than the £300,000 spent on Jamille Matt when they signed Dempsey in the summer of 2017.
However, he found game time limited under Barton last season and ended it on loan at Peterborough United.
He returned in the summer and like Conor McAleny, who also returned from a loan spell at Kilmarnock, has been given a chance to fight for a first team spot.
After racking up the minutes in pre-season, McAleny got the nod to start the 3-1 victory at Peterborough United.
Dempsey missed that clash and a chunk of pre-season with an injury picked up in Portugal.
Speaking at the pre-season fans forum, Barton said: “Again it will play itself out. I believe football takes care of it.
“I think I was proven right last year. He got sent out on loan, did not make an impact at Peterborough.
“There were periods where I looked round and thought I’d rather him be here than out on loan at Peterborough because, when we had a run of injuries, it did not really benefit us to have him out of the building. That is football sometimes.
“Me and Demps spoke when he came back. I’m not a manager or a person who holds grudges.
“He had an opportunity to prove himself again.
“Unfortunately for Kyle he picked up a thigh strain in Portugal which has meant he has not trained and not been able to take part in pre-season friendlies.
“That instantly puts him behind the lads who have been fit for selection and have been training every day.
“At the end of the day, if he is fit to play, he will play.
“If not, then the players who earn the right to be in the starting XI will be in the starting XI.
“We have to get competition for places this year. Hopefully Demps comes in and throws down a challenge.
“I’m aware of the quality he has got, he just has not shown it on my watch as of yet.
“You can say that may well be me – it could well be me – but that is something I saw towards the period when I knew I’d be coming into the Fleetwood job.
“To be fair to Conor McAleny and Kyle, who came back in good shape, Conor has been able to get in a rhythm and train everyday.
“You saw him in the Preston and Burnley games; he played really well but Kyle has not had that.”