Joey Barton says there is more to Fleetwood Town’s latest young starlet James Hill than a long throw as he backed the 17-year-old to have a bright future.
Hill became the youngest player to start an EFL game for Town when he lined up at Blackpool on Monday.
The son of ex-Blackpool player Matt could not help Town to avoid a 2-1 defeat but Barton was full of praise for him.
Hill’s long throws have been an attacking weapon with one of them leading to Ash Hunter’s stoppage-time equaliser against Peterborough United on Good Friday.
Barton said: “It is just something he picks up and does. It is something we will be utilising.
“You get a throw-in in the final third and it is like a corner it is that long. We would be naive not to use that.
“He is a good player – it is not all about the long throw.
“He showed he can handle the occasion. The future looks bright for him.
“We have to develop him along with a number of our youngsters.
“The challenge now is that we give him the best opportunity to develop at Fleetwood Town.”
While Barton was pleased at how Hill dealt with Blackpool striker Armand Gnanduillet, he was less than happy at how his more experienced players performer late on.
He said: “I thought he was excellent, certainly against Gnanduillet.
“You won’t face a more physical striker in the league this season but I felt he dealt with it superbly.
“He dealt with the occasion superbly and he gives us that attacking emphasis with his long throw.
“I’m more disappointed with the seniors around him, certainly in the latter stages. We have got to be a bit more switched on than that.
“We were far too spaced out.
“One long ball pumped up from the keeper ends up bouncing in our final third and obviously we get away with it as he hits the post.
“But we had nobody following up. I spoke to them in the dressing room – those are the fine margins.
“You have to play to the final whistle. The Blackpool lads did that and that is why they managed to get the three points.”
Town have another suspension to add to their list ahead of hosting Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Nathan Sheron’s red card will see him miss the final three games of the campaign as he starts a four-match ban for his second dismissal of the season.
Harry Souttar is yet to sit out the last match of his three-game ban for his red at Barnsley, with Jason Holt, James Wallace, Dean Marney and Craig Morgan all sidelined through injury.
Jack Sowerby made a cameo off the bench against Blackpool as he returns to fitness, but given the number of absentees, Barton believes there could be a chance for more youngsters such as Hill.
He said:“Injuries and suspensions have led to opportunities for players, who to a man have shown they are capable.
“The challenge for me in the off-season is to get them enough experience so they can start to be regular players for our first team.
“All the early signs are very positive on that but we have some tough fixtures – Bristol Rovers at home and Sunderland (next Tuesday). It is not a case of me rolling out the kids.
“We have got a professional courtesy to make sure we give ourselves the maximum opportunity of winning every game.
“If we were in other teams’ situations, we would not want to pick a young side and devalue the competition.”