Joey Barton would love to take his Fleetwood Town side back to Everton in the FA Cup this season, having finally drawn a line under any ill-feeling between himself and the Blues’ Under-21 coach, David Unsworth.
Barton’s side defeated Unsworth’s young Toffees 4-0 at Goodison Park in the second round of the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.
When the draw was made, it was inevitable that Barton’s past comments about Unsworth would resurface.
When Unsworth was serving as the caretaker boss of the Blues’ first team two years ago and Evertonian Barton was working as a radio pundit, he had explained in no uncertain terms why he felt Unsworth should not be getting the job permanently, not least because he was overweight.
And the Fleetwood boss hardly played down those comments in his pre-match press conference on Monday, meaning it’s fair to say that most eyes at Goodison on Tuesday were focused on the dugouts as much as the pitch when the teams emerged.
As it turned out, Unsworth embraced Barton, who later told The Gazette: “Everything was fine. We had a laugh about it before the game.”
He added: “It’s one of those things. We’ve all been called a lot worse things in football stadiums, trust me.
“You run a gauntlet as a footballer and the abuse you get is something to make a grown man wince sometimes. We’re just two people who want to compete, I suppose.”
And Barton said he would love to return to Goodison for the FA Cup third round, if his side successfully negotiates Sunday’s second round hurdle at Crawley Town.
He added: “Peter Clarke is an Evertonian, like myself ,and so is Billy Crellin, so it would be nice to come back here in the third round if we get there.
“You love coming here. The first time I came watching football was in the Gwladys Street. It’s where I grew up watching some great players – usually not for Everton but for the opposition!
“I see this as a dress rehearsal for coming back here in a full stadium with a full capacity, Evertonians cheering them on and us trying to upset them.”
Central defender Clarke was among the players singled out for praise by Barton after the Goodison performance.
He added: “I’m delighted with the clean sheet and I thought Clarkey and Jimmy Dunne were outstanding against Oumar Niasse.
“Niasse probably earns more than all my lads put together and I thought that on the whole we handled him superbly. I’ve seen him rough up Premier League centre-halves and give them sleepless nights.”