Joey Barton believes Eddie Clarke’s eye-catching debut provided further vindication of Fleetwood Town’s youth policy.
READ MORE: Joey Barton's reaction to Fleetwood Town's draw with Bristol Rovers
The 20-year-old, who joined the club from Tranmere Rovers last May, made his first league appearance in Saturday’s goalless home draw with Bristol Rovers.
He impressed sufficiently in his 82 minutes to be afforded a standing ovation on being substituted, taking home the man-of-the-match award for good measure.
Fellow youngster Harrison Biggins joined Clarke in the starting line-up, with Barry Baggley, James Hill, Ryan Rydel and Daniel Mooney among the substitutes.
Injuries and suspensions might have forced Barton’s hand in that regard but he has shown on numerous occasions this season that he is unafraid to give youth its head.
The Town boss said: “We can’t buy our way out of this division, so we have to develop our own talent.
“I said when I came in that I would give young players an opportunity.
“James Hill started last week and did superbly. He was unfortunate to miss out because we had a tweak of our tactical plan.
“Barry Baggley has played a number of games as a substitute, there’s Ryan Rydel, Eddie Clarke and Ged Garner, so there are lots and lots of positives at this football club.
“It just shows that if you are a good young player and you don’t get an opportunity at a big Premier League club, then come to the Fylde coast and enjoy your football with Fleetwood Town.
“We have the facilities to do that and, obviously, we are an ambitious club that want to develop young players because we can’t afford to buy the best talent at this level.
“Eddie Clarke turned in a superb performance for 80 minutes but we made a couple of changes.
“We wanted to get more attacking players on the pitch in the last 10 minutes to win the game but, for a lad making his debut, he was absolutely superb.
“A 17-year-old (James Hill) made his debut last week and there are really positive signs.
“When your scholars are in and around the first team picture, it speaks for what’s happening at the club and it’s an exciting time to be a Fleetwood Town fan.”
Another stage in the youngsters’ development comes tomorrow night when Sunderland visit Highbury for Town’s last home match of the season.
A sizeable away following is expected, not least with the Black Cats needing victory to have any chance of automatic promotion this season.
“Atmospheres are what make football matches,” Barton said.
“You see those ties sometimes when sanctions have been put on and it’s played in front of a stadium that’s empty and it feels like a nothing game, a training ground game.
“You want an atmosphere and there’ll certainly be one on Tuesday; I expect the Fleetwood faithful will be in full voice and it’s testament to how far the club’s come in such a short space of time.”