Ash Eastham: Fleetwood Town squad back Joey Barton's decision to send players to train with the Under-18s

Joey Barton and Ash Eastham
Joey Barton and Ash Eastham

Ash Eastham says the Fleetwood Town squad has backed Joey Barton’s decision to send players to train with the Under-18s.

Bobby Grant has been training with the academy since September after a disagreement over team selection and is no longer classed as part of the first team group by boss Barton.

The head coach sent striker Chris Long to join him after an “effort error” in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Bury proved the final straw.

Full-back Gethin Jones was also sent to train with Simon Wiles’ youngsters but is expected to rejoin the group next week, having attended last weekend’s squad outing to Dublin.

Barton said last week that Gethin Jones had a lifeline at the club due to the opinions of his senior players.
And Eastham is part of Barton’s group of senior players to bounce ideas off. He is one of the ‘generals’ with whom the head coach discussed sending players to train with the youth team.

Asked if it was the group’s decision, Eastham said: “We had a conversation. Like the manager has said, with this kind of leadership culture we want to create the final decision is always the manager’s.

“We sometimes put suggestions to him that he completely bats off but he wants to bounce ideas off us.

“The three lads have been training with the U18s recently. Going forward, I’m not too sure what will happen with them.

“But we had discussions. Some members can come back into the training squad and certain lads might be moving on in January. That might be a choice of their own after recent goings-on.

“The squad is focused. We have not let it detract from our focus going into the next games because if we get a culture of cliques or moaning in changing rooms it is no good for anyone.

“The manager has dealt with that. We have backed his decision, heard him out and we just move forward as a squad now.”

Asked if instances like this are part and parcel of football Eastham answered: “Yeah, definitely.”

Without naming names, Eastham referred to another player who had been sent to train with Wiles’ squad in pre-season.

He added: “The boss pointed to that instance as a way it can benefit the squad. One of our top players was sent for a week with the U18s in pre-season because he was not pulling his weight.

“He has gone on to be one of the best-performing players we have in the team. It just shows the positives of what can happen in that situation.

“The manager takes no messing around. If you are not running 100 per cent or training like you play, you will spend time out of the squad and everyone is on board with that. It breeds good habits."