Fleetwood boss Joey Barton begins quest for 'reinforcements' with signing of Callum Connolly

Callum Connolly has played against Fleetwood this season for Lincoln City
Callum Connolly has played against Fleetwood this season for Lincoln City

Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton wants reinforcements at Highbury this month and has made a pleasing start with the signing of defender Callum Connolly on loan from Everton for the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old will bolster Town’s backline following last week’s departures of Peter Clarke and Jimmy Dunne.

The Liverpudlian has come through the ranks at Goodison Park and this is his seventh loan move to an EFL club.

Connolly joined Lincoln City last summer and his 15 appearances for the Red Imps included games against Fleetwood and Blackpool, but he has not featured since mid-November.

His signing gives a welcome option for Barton, whose only other experienced centre-halves are Ash Eastham and Harry Souttar, while England Under-20 and U21 international Connolly can also play in midfield.”

Barton spoke openly of his need for reinforcements after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat by Portsmouth. He said: “We’ve got a starting 11 that’s as strong as anybody on its day and we’ve a couple behind that who can come in and play a starting role, but beyond that 13 or 14 we are light. We’re into young kids and lads who need experience but we did it last year.

“After we lost in the cup to Wimbledon (again at the third-round stage) we kind of galvanised and gave people opportunities. It’s disappointing but it isn’t the end of our season.”

Barton had hoped further progress in the FA Cup would have boosted this month’s transfer kitty and he admits it is difficult for Fleetwood to compete financially with some League One clubs, such as last weekend’s opponents.

He added: “You look at Portsmouth’s bench and there are some really good League One players there, so the dip in quality wouldn’t be massive if Kenny (Jackett) makes a substitution. That’s the kind of financial power Pompey have compared to us.

“They paid good money for John Marquis – a big, physical specimen, who will run all day – and they left Ellis Harrison on the bench. They are bigger and more physical than us, and that costs you money.

“I can’t compete with Pompey for John Marquis. We can’t afford to pay him, so January is going to be key for us because we’ve lost some players who could impact games for us and we have to replace that, otherwise we’ll be weaker than we were when the season started.

“Everybody is aware we need reinforcements. I’ll be pushing to get quality rather than quantity and we’ll see how that shapes up over the next two or three weeks.”

Connolly revealed he could have arrived at Highbury earlier, saying: “I was going to come here in the summer on loan but it didn’t work out .

“I’m just glad I’m here now and hopefully I can kick on for the rest of the season. We’ve got a big few months ahead, not just for me but for the club as well. It’s a club on the up.”

Barton had hinted at Connolly’s arrival on Saturday but said it was Town’s only imminent deal. “At this moment that’s the only one but we have other irons in the fire,” he said.

“But you know what January is like – everyone waits until the last minute.”