Five more former Fleetwood Town players Joey Barton could swoop for this transfer window after the signings of Danny Andrew and Josh Morris

Conor McLaughlin, Jimmy Ryan, Harry Souttar, Ched Evans and David Ball
Conor McLaughlin, Jimmy Ryan, Harry Souttar, Ched Evans and David Ball

Fleetwood Town have swooped for two of their former players during this transfer window in Danny Andrew and Josh Morris, and with a host of other ex-Town men available this summer, Fleetwood writer Rosie Swarbrick has earmarked some head coach Joey Barton could make a move for.

Fleetwood Town have swooped for two of their former players during this transfer window in Danny Andrew and Josh Morris, and with a host of other ex-Town men available this summer, Fleetwood writer Rosie Swarbrick has earmarked some head coach Joey Barton could make a move for.


Former Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler pointed to the exits of McLaughlin, David Ball and Jimmy Ryan (the latter pair also out of contract this summer) as a reason for the club’s transformation from promotion chasers to relegation battlers.

Free agent McLaughlin should be on Barton’s shopping list.

He left in the summer of 2017 after playing a key role in Town’s promotion to League One and in the play-off campaign of the 2016-17 season.

He left to join play-off winners Millwall in the Championship but is now looking for a new club

With bags of EFL experience, Championship pedigree and international caps for Northern Ireland, he is set to be hot property for League One clubs.

Named in the EFL team of the League One season in that 2016-17 campaign, the right-back was a solid and consistent performer for Fleetwood.

He brought his experiences of training with Premier League players on international duty to help Town’s training standards and his leadership qualities have been missed.

His height made a difference on corners. He has an eye for goal as seen in that 2-0 win at champions Sheffield United in 2017.

While much was made of Town’s left-back struggles, McLaughlin’s exit from the opposite flank also rocked Town’s defence.

Leeds United loanee Lewie Coyle has been solid in the position for the last two seasons but McLaughlin should be the full-back Town swoop for.

He is a better defender than Coyle, more attack-minded, has more experience and at 27 still has years left in his game.

Coyle, 23, has one more year left on his deal at Leeds United and the Elland Road outfit will surely be looking for cash rather than another loan.


Newly promoted Premier League side Sheffield United transfer-listed the 30-year-old striker, who spent last season at Fleetwood.

The forward has one more year on his deal at Bramall Lane left and his 17-goal record at Town speaks for itself.

Bolton Wanderers tried to snatch him in January, when third-tier big cats Sunderland were also sniffing around, so there will be competition for his services.

Given the captaincy towards the end of the season, Evans played a key role in a Town attack that saw Paddy Madden finish on 19 goals.

With Ashley Nadesan departing and Ashley Hunter favoured in a wide role, Town will need another target man to compliment Madden if they want to play two up front again.

Conor McAleny has been riddled with injuries and did not light up Kilmarnock during his loan spell. His Town future is in doubt.

With youngsters Ged Garner and Sam O’Halleron as the other options, an out-and-out strike partner for Madden must be top of the shopping list.

And Evans is tried and tested. The statistics show how potent the Madden and Evans partnership was.

But the issue of course will be the price tag and questions could be raised about injury risks.

Evans had injections throughout the season to deal with niggling injuries and sat out the final two games.

But in my opinion that is a risk worth taking. The forward is still hungry to prove himself in the Championship after his career was stalled by a high-profile court case. And Barton has not hid his ambitions of reaching that tier.

Evans has been welcomed by the Fleetwood fans and there are not many experienced strikers with such a goal record available this summer.

Hence it is no surprise that Portsmouth have been linked with a swoop.


For me Souttar was one of the players of the year but bringing him back to Highbury might not be easy.

League One rivals Portsmouth have reportedly been shot down in their attempts to lure him away from Championship side Stoke.

The Aberdeen-born Australia international is under contract until 2022 at the Potters and boss Nathan Jones is reportedly keen to give him a chance to prove he can cut it in their first team.

And given his form for Town since he arrived in January, it would be no surprise to see him do a Ben Davies and return to his parent club from Fleetwood and cement a place in the starting line-up.

Left-footed centre-half Davies would probably by worth £10m in today’s market given his form at North End over the last two seasons.

At 6ft, 7ins Souttar’s height is obviously a big asset and he forged an almost telepathic understanding with Ash Eastham before a red card at Barnley and toe injury saw his season come to an early end in April.

But he had certainly made his mark. Clearances, blocks, headers and a rock in the defence at just 20, he handled it all with the maturity of an experienced centre-half.

Though he must learn from his red card and add more goals to his game he is certainly one for the future.

If Jones does not feel he is ready for the Championship, then the centre-half could be loaned again.

One of the great pluses about Souttar is his desire to play week in, week out. He told Stoke he wanted to go on loan in January to prove himself and his return to Town could prove the difference between mid-table mediocrity and a promotion push.

It sounds a lot to put on one young man’s shoulder’s but the clean sheets showed just how big an impact he made.

Add him to a crop of Alex Cairns, Eastham, Hunter, Madden, Morris, Andrew and Wes Burns, and you have the base of a team capable of promotion.

Even if Souttar does not return, then other Championship clubs should consider Town a club to be trusted with their best youngsters, given the way Davies and Souttar gained confidence and minutes at Highbury.

It might be frustrating to see a loan player depart, but Town should be building a reputation for helping talented players to blossom or, in the case of Evans, to rebuild.

For me bringing Souttar back would be the biggest and best signing of the summer.

Given the impact he made in four months, imagine what mark he would make over a full season.


While not a prolific goalscorer, the man has proved time and time again that he can be a magician and has attributes that could see him walk into any League One team – work ethic, flair, versatility and that famed eye for the spectacular.

He has been released by Rotherham and has a host of League One clubs sniffing around him.

The class that saw him nominated for a Puskus award for his strike against Preston North End in 2015 is still in his locker in abundance. A fine solo goal against Blackpool for Bradford last season showed his qualities.

It is not just his clear footballing talent that makes Ball such a prize asset in the third tier but his personality too.

The loss of Ball from Fleetwood’s dressing room in the summer of 2017 was a massive blow.

He commands the respect of younger and the elder members of the dressing room due to his tactical nous and clear understanding of the game.

A hard worker who is always laughing, he is an asset to any dressing room.

Could the 29-year-old be the answer up front if Town could not recapture Ched Evans?

Though it would be lovely to see Ball back, I don’t think he would fit into the way Barton wants to play on the evidence of last year and the loaning out of Conor McAleny.

McAleny was brought in as a replacement for Ball as a number 10 in the summer of 2017.

Injuries have impacted his time at Town but McAleny could not nail down a spot in a front three, a front two or on the wings as Barton shifted from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and even a 3-4-3.

Take away the injuries and McAleny has similar qualities to Ball, and has a year left on his contract. There is a massive pre-season ahead for McAleny if he wants a future at Town.

He and Kyle Dempsey must find a way to adapt to Barton’s vision if they want to remain at Highbury.

Ball does have one key asset that Barton is a fan of – versatility.

The forward can also play in midfield as he has shown at Town and last season at Bradford. But if Barton does recruit in attack, I can see him opting for the Evans model.


A return for Ryan could aid Town’s central midfield but there are two big issues: the controversial manner of his departure and his recent injury history.

The 30-year-old’s only appearance for Blackpool last season was on the final day and his last three campaigns have been hampered by injury.

Does that make him too much of a risk? Ryan turned down a new contract at Town to join their neighbours in the summer of 2017, having been out of action with a knee injury since the previous November.

The move did not go down well with the Cod Army and he is now in the same position again – out of contract and with an offer on the table from the Tangerines.

Town could certainly do with midfield reinforcements. So far they have Dempsey, Nathan Sheron, Dean Marney, Harrison Biggins, Jack Sowerby, Barry Baggley, and Dan Mooney.

And as Barton has proved with the signings of Danny Andrew and Josh Morris he is not afraid to look back.

On paper would Ryan enhance those midfield options? Yes.

He is a leader, something Barton is looking for across the pitch, and has vast experience at League One level.

He can also score a goal or two and link the defence and attack. But would he return?

And with five loan spots available, the Cod Army could be chanting the name of someone completely different come next May.

But in my opinion recruiting a central midfielder who knows the division inside out could be key to Fleetwood being contenders or pretenders. Whoever is signed next season will again be a rollercoaster.

Fleetwood need a new central defender, another right-back, probably most importantly a central midfielder and another goalscorer to keep Paddy Madden on his toes.

Bring in those to compliment Cairns, Eastham, Andrew, Burns, Hunter, Morris and Madden, and you have a team that could strike fear into anyone in the division.

Barton likened shopping in League One to being a used car dealer and it’s good to see him bringing back old models.

In Morris and Andrew he has found an addition to his wing wizards and a man capable of filling the shoes of Amari’i Bell.

Let’s see who arrives next...