Barton's tribute to Fleetwood Town's standout player
Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton hopes Ash Hunter will continue to light up the pitch and the dressing room at Highbury.
The 22-year-old has scored twice and added seven assists this season as Town head to Southend United, aiming to make it eight unbeaten in League One.
Hunter has made the left-wing role his own and taken on the dead ball responsibility in recent weeks, setting up goals for Paddy Madden and Cian Bolger against Sunderland and Accrington Stanley respectively.
Barton said: “There has been no doubting Ash’s quality.
“He has been our standout player, along with a couple of others this season.
“He has grown into that role of being a real leader in terms of performance.
“He is someone you would pay to go and watch.
“Every time he gets the ball you expect something to happen.
“He just has to keep that going and that comes from working hard on and off the pitch and he is getting the rewards of that.
“He is a good kid; he has a really good way about him, a little bit of a rascal kind of figure but a really loveable one who keeps you on your toes.
“He really does light the dressing room up from time to time with some of his antics.
“He lights the stadiums up from time to time with some of his performances: long may it continue.”
Another wide man, Wes Burns, sits out the Southend match for the final game of his three-match league ban – with an extra game’s absence for good measure in the Checkatrade Trophy.
With his replacement for the last two league games, Conor McAleny, joining skipper Craig Morgan as an injury doubt for Saturday, it is a chance for one of Barton’s squad to claim the shirt before Burns’ return.
“We’ve had Wes Burns out for the last few games who was a massive part of what we are doing,” Barton said.
“We’ve missed Wes for the last three games.
“Even though he has had a three-game suspension he will miss a fourth, bizarrely, but those are the rules.
“You have got a lad playing very good football who unfortunately is missing games for what we felt was a very harsh red card having watched it back. That is football.
“The good thing about that is that it is someone else’s opportunity.
“He is chomping at the bit to get back in the set-up and he will be in contention for the Barnsley game.
“Now the key for us is Southend.”