Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton doesn’t want to overwork Highbury midfielder

Joey Barton has explained the absence of one of Fleetwood Town’s most important players this season – while also outlining why another man has taken his place.

Saturday, 8th February 2020, 5:00 am
Fleetwood Town's Glenn Whelan

Paul Coutts hasn’t featured much recently, having spent the first half of the season as one of the first names on the teamsheet.

He joined the club in the summer from Sheffield United and became club captain.

Of late though, game time has been hard to come by for the former Scotland international – and that is to manage his workload.

Barton said: “We looked at Couttsy and we’ve got to be mindful that we’re taking lads who are coming out of environments where they’ve not really played a lot of football for whatever reason.

“League One football in March is Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. It’s just relentless.

“That isn’t easy to do off the back of a season where you’ve been playing consistently, so to come off the back of seasons where, for the last two years you’ve been injured and trying to find your fitness, it’s tough to ask him to go hell for leather.

“If we do that, and we’ve signed Couttsy for two years, we’ll break him.

“We’ve got to police the players through it, and in order to do that, we’ve got to manage them correctly.

“No matter what we tell them to do, if you don’t have the energy or the physical capability to implement our structural plan or our tactical plan, then we’re not going to win games of football.

“If one or two players can’t do it, it doesn’t matter what ideas we’ve got because if you get the press wrong, if one gets it wrong, they get out.

“So we have to be able to marry what we want to do from a philosophical standpoint in terms of the team to what the player’s physical capabilities are.”

Stepping into Coutts’ role is Republic of Ireland international Glenn Whelan, who joined the club last month.

“We’re still learning about him,” Barton explained.

“You’re talking about an established, elite level player, someone who has spent most of his career at the apex of the game; 91 international caps.

“He’s come here to get into shape to captain his side in the European Championships and beyond, not someone who’s coming in having broken his leg 18 months ago and coming off the bench.

“If you look at Couttsy’s accumulated minutes at Sheffield United last season, he’s way beyond that in the early part for us.

“Glenn played all the way up to the play-offs last season and a number of games for Hearts. Even though he’s four or five years older than Couttsy, physically, he’s a completely different animal.

“You have to treat them in a bespoke way.”