FLEETWOOD Town manager Micky Mellon has hailed Joey Barton’s decision to join his team for training tomorrow as a “fantastic coup”.
But the Town boss also took a side-swipe at those who have criticised the agreement, slamming their negativity.
Barton, suspended for 12 matches after his latest bout of ill-discpline, has been given permission by his club Queens Park Rangers to train with Fleetwood, who embark on their historic first season in the Football League next month.
The controversial former England midfielder will train with Fleetwood for a week and a loan move could follow, though there has been no official confirmation of this by Town.
Mellon said: “What a fantastic coup it is for the football club that Joey will train with us. Can you name another Premier League footballer in the game who would train with a League Two club? I certainly couldn’t. That speaks highly of Joey.
“It can only be a positive move for the club and I am sick of all the negativity that goes on in this country.
“I have had press people ringing me up who probably don’t know anything about Fleetwood. They will write about Joey as though he is some kind of cross between Fred West and Diego Maradona.
“I don’t see why people should look for the negatives all the time or why people try to denigrate us when we have players at the club who are Premier League-class, like Jon Parkin and Damien Johnson.
“This is not some kind of circus or public relations exercise.
“Joey is a fantastic footballer, in my opinion probably the best midfielder in England, and my players will learn a lot from him and his attitude to the game.
“He will also get the benefits of training with my players.
“It is a great compliment to this football club that Queens Park Rangers have agreed he can train with us.”
Barton is no stranger to Fleetwood matches – he has attended several at Highbury and is a good pal of Town striker Andy Mangan.
It was after talking it over with Mangan and other friends in the Fleetwood dressing-room that Mellon made his move to invite Barton to train.
Mellon said: “Maybe people didn’t recognise him at our games because he was wearing a big hat!”
Barton himself said he has agreed to link up with Fleetwood to help him “fall back in love with the game” and “become a better person”.
He also suggested QPR are considering loaning him out at the start of the season, enabling him to serve his 12-match ban quicker.
Writing on his website, Barton added that he had become disenchanted with football and needs a “reality check”.
Barton said: “There’s been a lot of interest regarding me training with Fleetwood. It wasn’t something I was so bothered to talk about and I’m surprised by the level of interest, naive of me maybe.
“The simple fact is that on top of my much-deserved punishment by the FA and then, of course, QPR, I’ve also been omitted from the senior QPR squad that are now out in Asia, which is, of course, even more gutting than the original punishment.
“I respect that (manager) Mark Hughes makes his own decisions, of course, and fair play to him for doing what he believes is right. QPR want me to train with the young guys and the reserves in the meantime.
“The possibility of a loan move has been mentioned. There’s been interest from several European clubs and a lot of Championship clubs too, as you may expect.
“I have become a little disenchanted with the game in the last six months, after what I have put myself through, and I desperately want to fall back in love with the game.
I feel that training in the lower leagues will give me a reality check and maybe help me become a better person – a little more humility will serve me well.
“The lower leagues is where the hunger for the game is at its greatest, at least where players are concerned.
“I want to reignite that passion for the game, something that I ordinarily have an abundance of – no primadonnas, just pure, old school, mortgage/livelihoods on the line football.
“It’ll help me appreciate all that the Premier League offers me now and in the future. What else can I do?
“Work hard, fall back in love with the game and keep my fingers crossed that I can once again earn my place in a QPR shirt.”