Fleetwood boss Joey Barton highlights central midfield for summer strengthening

Joey Barton says central midfield was pinpointed in January as a key area for Fleetwood Town to strengthen
Joey Barton says central midfield was pinpointed in January as a key area for Fleetwood Town to strengthen

Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton says midfield is one area he is looking to strengthen this summer.

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The ex-Burnley central midfielder is keen to bolster the middle of the park, having identified that as a problem area in January.

Barton, 36, last week released two midfield men in injury-hit James Wallace and the versatile Ryan Taylor.

Dean Marney is under contract for another year but did not feature after Town’s FA Cup exit against AFC Wimbledon

on the first weekend of the year.

His omission was due to form and then a calf injury.

Jack Sowerby returned from loan at Carlisle to gain a regular spot in the middle but injury also hampered the end of his season.

Rangers loan star Jason Holt was another hit by injury and he returned to his parent club after the 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley at the end of March.

Young duo Nathan Sheron and Harrison Biggins gained opportunities due to those injuries but Sheron’s red card in the Easter derby at Blackpool saw him miss the remaining games.

Full-back Lewie Coyle also featured in the middle at times but has now returned to Leeds United.

Ross Wallace too featured in a midfield three but is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.

That leaves Barton with Biggins, Marney, Sheron and Sowerby as definite central midfield options for next season.

Barton will be boosted by the return of Kyle Dempsey after his loan at Peterborough United, where he managed just 11 appearances, but the Town boss warned he wants to see improvements if the 23-year-old returns for pre-season training at Town.

Asked if midfield is an area he is looking to strengthen, Barton answered: “Yeah, I think so. We highlighted in January that we felt we were short in there.

“A couple of things, a couple of players not quite working out for us has made it even more of an area to prioritise with the signings.

“But again the reality is that there are lads who have had opportunities, so they will only have themselves to blame if they do not manage to take that.

“It is all very well wanting to give people opportunities but at some point you need to really address key areas.

“Without key players in certain areas of the pitch it is difficult for the team to function as efficiently as possible.”