Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton's first League One pre-match press conference: 10 things we learned ahead of the AFC Wimbledon opener
Pre-season has been probably what you could describe as the calm before the storm.
The storm being the first pre-match press conference of the season as Fleetwood Town prepare for the opening League One game of the 2018/19 term at home to AFC Wimbledon.
New Fleetwood boss Joey Barton ranged from comparing implementing good behavioural practices to teaching a dog not to poo on the carpet, to backing his No.1 as the best keeper in the division, to psychology, Sunderland and what he learned from Sean Dyche.
Here I try to condense the highlights into 10 things we learned.
Yup 10 things. The season has not even started, so strap yourselves in guys because if this opener is anything to go by this is going to be an entertaining ride.
1) Barton might be talking poo but his words are not tripe
Aside from having to change several swear words for a family friendly audience the big thing you take away from a conversation with Barton is this: the man knows football inside out.
So you can read his poo comments as tongue in cheek or jest but the message there is actually bob on.
Look deeper at these quotes and the message is clear: “I always think if your dog comes in and poos on your carpet and you don’t tell it then the dog does not know any different.
“If you also reward the dog for pooing on the carpet, which managers can do with bad behaviour because they turn a blind eye to it because someone is performing and scoring goals on the pitch then everyone thinks it is OK to poo on the carpet and before you know it your carpet is full of poo.
“You have just got to make sure you communicate from the start that this is not the way it is going to be.”
If people do not know that they are not behaving right, tell them and train it out of them. Otherwise you will create more problems.
The other big message too is that if a player does not want to be at Town then he does not want them at the club.
This time last year we saw how having a player who did not want to be at the club in Devante Cole can be.
So what a great attitude Barton has in that using his Premier League pedigree that he does not want to have people that could be detrimental to morale at Town around.
You can see that his imprint is on all the signings.
2) His aim is clear: Win or learn
His methods and aim is simple and so is his mantra.
Create a healthy environment, prepare properly and win games of football.
He said: “All you can do is prepare superbly.
“The score will take care of itself, we believe in that.
“The mantra is: you win or you learn.
“That is what I have carried on my journey as a football player, that is what I will carry on my life journey.”
3) There is no bid on the table for any of his star men... much to his delight.
Aside from prioritising buying players with the right attitude he is determined to keep hold of his main men.
Rumours have swirled around Kyle Dempsey, Cian Bolger and Alex Cairns’ futures this summer with interest from the Championship.
And you can tell in his first transfer window as boss he is concerned about losing some of his star men.
He said: “If you ask me right now if the window closes in five minutes am I happy?
“I’d say, 'Yeah, absolutely'.
“That means nobody goes out and nobody comes in.
“No (we have had no bids).
“I’m quite delighted about that.
“Long may that continue, you hear all the rumours people linked with things but we have just got to keep the communication levels open with the lads.”
4) The ex-Premier League man thinks the difference between the higher divisions is all in the mind
For a man who has played the majority of his career in the top flight he says the difference at League One level having never played here is all in the mind.
He said: “In League One what I have found is a lot of it is to do with the mind.
“A lot of it is about psychology, their approach to a mistake, their mental ability to overcome adversity.
“It is not to do with ability, with technical or physical capabilities, it is more to do with how they deal with disappointment.
“So a lot of the stuff we have been doing has been psychological.
“We have been doing all the stuff you need to do tactically and technically but also delving in to try and make the group physiologically better.
“We have seen some great reactions to mistakes, the reaction time from someone making a mistake, to chasing getting the ball back has reduced significantly in our time at the football club.
“Which will help us in a game when the ball turns over at times.
“It will help us be more alert, more aware and increase our ability of getting the ball back which gives us a better chance of winning games of football.”
Fleetwood’s reaction to mistakes last term was not good.
In their 14th-placed finish they could not find a way to win after conceding the first goal.
The players of last season were capable talent-wise of finishing in the top 10, but Barton has been working on making the remainder of that crop now psychologically stronger.
5) He knows the division and the ex-Newcastle man thinks Sunderland are the stand out
He might not have played in League One but he has done his homework.
Like many, he sees this term as being wide open.
And he is right there is no Wolves, no Sheffield United, no PNE, no Wigan or Blackburn on paper that you can see storming the division.
But the ex-Newcastle man still thinks Sunderland are the stand-out team.
He said: “Sunderland is a fantastic football club with incredible support so you would think that if we are looking at a big club in the division then they are the stand-out club.
6) Like his stance on botox and hair dye Barton will not fight his age by coming out of retirement
Will he be getting those boots out? No, but does he wish he was on the pitch?
He does miss it but like those players fighting age by using plastic surgery and hair dye Barton will not be taking those measures and is leaving it for the next generation.
Speaking about wishing he was on the pitch the 35-year-old admitted: “Yeah...
“Then when you see the fitness stuff and the hard work you realise it is someone else’s time.
“As a player it was fantastic, it is the time of the season to be hugely optimistic but also you have to let it go.
“It is like players using hair dye or botox... it just is not me.
“I’m kind of at that point where everything runs it course.
“My playing career has run its course, I had a great time, played for some great clubs and thoroughly enjoyed it but it is somebody else’s time and it is my time as a coach.
“I’m really looking forward to being with the lads and building up to the game on Saturday.”
7) He has taken a tip from Burnley boss and mentor Sean Dyche to ease his selection headache
Barton has a selection headache on his hands with two or more players battling it out for every position.
The front three will be the toughest decision Ched Evans, Conor McAleny, Ash Hunter, Paddy Madden, Wes Burns, development squad forward Ashley Nadesean, injury doubt Chris Long and versatile midfielders Kyle Dempsey and Bobby Grant all fighting it out.
But he will be using a tip from old boss Sean Dyche to handle disappointment and selection: honesty is the best policy.
He said: “The main thing I took from Sean Dyche was just be a good man.
“Communicate, be truthful, do not tell the player one thing and an agent another, just be dead straight down the line.
“With our centre forward situation they will know the hierarchy because they will know from games and training that if that is the system we are going to play, he is maybe ahead of me there.
“What they are then looking for is communication, how do they close the gap?
“If there is an opportunity if there is an opportunity that the person in that space is not doing what they should be doing, can they do it better?
“Then you have to give people opportunities.
“As long as you are aware of that and communicating with the group and the people all the time.
“It is when people feel like they are not listened to or heard and ignored that is when you usually get problems and that is the big take out I got from Dyche.”
He also stressed that if a player is not in the starting line-up on Saturday then that is not the end, there is time to play in the whole season.
8) He gave us some team news and an update on the fitness of Jason Holt and Chris Long ahead of Saturday's clash
Jason Holt will miss the game through suspension but he joked he will be checking fellow Huyton lad Long’s birth certificate as he continues to battle with a blister.
He joked: “He is a tough Huyton lad like myself and to see him miss game time with a blister is very worrying, I need to check his birth certificate to check it is legitimate because there are serious concerns.”
Switching to serious mode he added: “He has not trained in the last couple of days but he will train on Thursday.
“He is probably going to come up short in terms of the fact he has not got enough minutes on the clock to throw his cap in the ring to start.
“Maybe there is an opportunity for him to come off the bench but I will gauge that when I speak to the medical staff and we see how that blister is.”
9) He thinks he has the best keeper in the division in Alex Cairns
When it comes to his keeper though there is no doubt who will start in goal.
Alex Cairns is the new No.1 and Barton says he is the best in the division.
Just before making keeper Paul Jones his 10th signing of the summer he said: “We want someone to come in and push Al because I think he is the best goalkeeper in League One.
“I think he can do things very few keepers can do and he suits the way we want to play the game.
“His qualities on the ball as a footballer are exceptional.
“You see with top modern day goalkeepers you have to be able to play, it is a massive part of it and it can contribute to what you are trying to do.
“With Al we have got that.
“But we needed another keeper to make sure he is competitive and he is being pushed.”
10) He will be giving youth a chance but does that mean a starting spot for Nathan Sheron?
When he arrived at Town he stressed the need to create a pathway for young players.
The stand-out development squad star of pre-season has been Nathan Sheron.
Pushed forward from central defence to a number four Barton now says the youngster is in prime position to make his first ever EFL appearance this term.
He said: “Shez will definitely be in the picture, in and around it.
“I don’t care how old you are, if you are good enough you will play.”
And he has a message for the Cod Army ahead of his first game at Highbury.
He said: “There is a lot of negativity in the world around us and I think football should be a real positive experience where people come and feel positivity and enjoy spending the afternoon with family members and watching a good game of football.