Joey Barton would not be surprised to see Harry Redknapp in the Southend dugout at Highbury on Saturday – and the Fleetwood head coach joked that the only phonecall he has made to his old QPR boss was to make him do Bushtucker Trials on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Rumours are swirling that Redknapp could help his longtime assistant Kevin Bond in his new role as Southend boss.
Redknapp managed QPR from 2012-15, when Barton and Fleetwood coach Clint Hill were players for the London club.
They won promotion to the Premier League during that spell, when Bond was Redknapp’s assistant.
Bond took charge at Roots Hall this week and Redknapp has been spotted at the Shrimpers’ training ground.
Asked if he’d spoken to Redknapp in the build-up to the game, Barton said: “No, the only phonecalls I made were to I’m a Celebrity... to make him eat worm larvae and stuff like that
“H is a top man. He was with us at QPR. We shared that incredible play-off final experience (beating Derby County at Wembley in 2014). He’s a good football character.
“I thought he came across superb in the jungle. He is a good football man and he is very close to Kevin Bond.
“It will be strange seeing Bondy in the technical area without Harry but – who knows? – he might make a late cameo at Highbury to give Bondy a hand.”
But Barton says there will be no sentiment and this will be no different to pitting his wits against other managers.
“We want to win every game,” Barton said. “There is competitiveness in every technical area of every ground. It will be no different.
“We’ve shared an experience with them, so you know them as a person in a bit more depth than you do most opposition managers.
“Apart from that all sentiment goes out of the window.
“I don’t even let my own kids win anything – computer games, board games, races in the back garden. If you do not let your seven-year-old lad win a race, then I’d be very surprised if I let Bondy win or showed any sentiment.
“He’s a good man. We will show him the ultimate respect by trying to beat him by as many as we can on Saturday.
“After that we will wish him all the best in their battle to stay in the division.”