Five things new Fleetwood Town head coach Joey Barton needs to do to be a success in League One

Joey Barton
Joey Barton

Pre-season training gets underway on Monday as Joey Barton's reign as Fleetwood Town’s head coach truly begins.

He's done the research, watched several of Fleetwood Town's final League One games and already met a number of his new squad.

But now on June 18, 16 days after officially taking over from John Sheridan as head coach, the new era starts as the players return from holiday.

But what does Barton need to do to be a success in his first managerial role?

The Gazette's Fleetwood Town reporter Rosie Swarbrick gives her assessment of the five key things Barton needs to address to transform this Town side from relegation battlers to promotion material.

1) Assess the character of the squad

First he needs to assess his squad and its character. How could a team that lost eight in a row then go unbeaten in seven when John Sheridan took charge?

Then once Town knew they were safe they took their foot off the pedal and Barton was in the stands to see that drop in levels. The 4-0 defeat to Wigan in April showed the gulf between top and Town.

Barton seems like a man who will quickly sift through his squad, rooting out any players he doesn’t want or who don’t want to be at the club.

2) Shop

Top of the agenda will almost certainly be full-backs. Months on from Amari’i Bell’s exit, it still fell to Ash Hunter to plug that gap on the left.

Town have already swooped for 19-year-old left-back Eddie Clarke from Tranmere. But you’d expect Barton to want another left-sided defender for competition.

Right-back Lewie Coyle has returned to Leeds and Town need competition for Gethin Jones, who will be bidding to prove he can be first-choice. After Nathan Pond’s departure, Town need more central defensive competition for Ash Eastham and Cian Bolger.

After keeper Chris Neal followed Pond to Salford City, Matty Urwin and Billy Crellin face big pre-seasons as they bid to convince Barton he need not dip into the market to find a challenger for number one Alex Cairns.

The midfield could do with more creativity but Barton could always dust off the boots and register to play himself.

Last season’s top scorer Jordy Hiwula has returned to parent club Huddersfield, so there is a gap up top.

Town’s policy in recent years has been to buy young but that was thrown out of the window in January, with swoops for experienced striker Paddy Madden and midfielder Toumani Diagouraga to boost a young side that needed more leadership and know-how.

Though many of Town’s young players will have learned bucketloads from last season, a blend of youth, talent and experience would be perfect.

3) Give youth a chance

Sheridan gave youth its chance, with Hunter and Jack Sowerby both rising from non-league through Town’s development squad before hitting the first team.

Used as an impact player under Rosler, Hunter became one of the first names on Sheridan’s teamsheet.

The defensive shackles were released and Hunter was urged to enjoy his natural game and run at people.

Sowerby was barely used under Rosler but got nine straight starts under Sheridan, adding grit and physicality to the midfield as well as a flash of creativity and an eye for goal.

Though he is still a rough diamond, there are plenty of other young stars at Barton’s disposal, like forward Ashley Nadesan after his successful loan with Carlisle.

Like Sheridan, Barton should not be afraid to put his faith in the youngsters.

4) Get a 30 plus game out of star striker Conor McAleny

One key will be to get a 30-game season out of Conor McAleny. Last summer’s marquee signing oozes Championship class. He is a pleasure to watch and that goal at Oxford showed he has more talent than most in League One.

The problem is that the 25-year-old striker has never played 30 games in one season due to injury problems.

He made an electric start at Highbury, netting twice on the opening day, but he injured his ankle a week later and has struggled ever since.

It was only when n Sheridan turned up in February that McAleny got his first full 90 minutes for Town.

If Fleetwood can keep him fit all season, the ex-Everton frontman can challenge for the division’s golden boot.

5) Mend Town's Achilles Heel - set-pieces

But for me, League One last term was all about set-pieces.Look at Blackburn’s Charlie Mulgrew and how his set-piece potency helped Rovers’ promotion push.

Wigan defenders Chey Dunkley (seven goals) and Dan Burn (six) also blazed a goalscoring trail when Will Grigg was not on fire.

Beaten play-off finalists Shrewsbury were the story of the season as they propelled themselves into the promotion mix thanks to consistency and organisation.

To prosper in this league you need to be strong in both boxes and consistent.

Inconsistency plagued Fleetwood, with Gazette player ratings as low as four out of throughout the campaign. Barton needs to find a key to consistent seven out of 10 performances from his players.