The Fleetwood Town squad jetted back from Portugal on the back of a defeat to Championship club Millwall but Joey Barton stressed the need to test themselves against higher-level opposition ahead of the League One season.
When Barton took over last summer, Town’s pre-season schedule had already been organised, with friendlies against Hungarian side STK Fluminense Samorin in Budapest , Tranmere Rovers, Chorley, Salford City and Morecambe.
Barton has been able to plan this summer’s itinerary himself and added games against higher-quality opposition.
Town started with a 1-0 win over National League side Wrexham and travel to League Two clubs Port Vale (Wednesday) and Carlisle United (Saturday) in the coming week.
But then they welcome Premier League club Burnley and Championship Preston North End to Highbury for their final pre-season matches.
Barton believes that testing themselves against higher opposition is key to show his players the heights they need to reach.
Speaking after Saturday evening’s 1-0 defeat to Millwall in Albufeira, which ended Fleetwood’s week training on the Algarve, the Town boss said: “This has been a really good week and the lads have put in some good work.
“It’s always nice to top it off with a run-out as it’s always football matches that give you that football fitness, and the lads are in a good spot as we now head home.
“We’ve got a busy schedule ahead of us now, with our next game on Wednesday and then one on Saturday, and I think we are all looking forward to it as these sides will test us.
“Last season it wasn’t my pre-season schedule because I wasn’t in the job at the time.
“And looking back, those teams didn’t put us in the deep water that we got here today.
“It’s always better playing against sides above you because they carry quality with them and it just shows our lads where they need to be at.”
Town have had a change of personnel behind the scenes.
Steve Burr has joined as a senior club scout after Town’s head of recruitment Steve Davis left the club to take up a role at Everton.
The former Southampton and Burnley defender will link up with the former Fleetwood technical director Gretar Steinsson at Goodison Park after six years at Highbury.