Joey Barton has explained why defender and Fleetwood Town's player of the season for the 2017/18 campaign Ash Eastham was not involved in their 1-0 opening day defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
Eastham has just been named vice captain for the season but due to Barton's desire to play new skipper Craig Morgan and Cian Bolger in the central defensive roles and the new EFL rule that stipulates one home grown player needs to be involved in the match day squad he missed out.
Barton said it was not an injury that saw the defender miss out on a spot in the 18 man squad but he explained that it does not mean the centre-half will not play a big role this season.
In fact Barton stressed the 27-year-old is a key part of his plans for this season as the new manager started his reign with a defeat.
Joe Pigott's 60th minute goal was the difference at Highbury but Barton praised the man he chose ahead of Eastham Bolger for his performance in a back four that featured Lewie Coyle at right back and left back Tommy Spurr on the left.
He said: "Our hands are tied by this new EFL rule that you have to have a homegrown player on the bench.
"The options we have for that spot are Nathan Sheron, Lewis Baines and Billy Crellin.
"Obviously Billy is on-loan at FC United and we felt Shez was the only one.
"Ash was really unfortunate to miss out.
"He has been first class in pre-season and has done everything expected of him and above but it was a toss up between him and Cian Bolger today and I thought Cian was excellent.
"He was first class in there.
"Ash is a massive part of what we are doing and what we are going to do at this football club.
"We have got to get a lot of bodies down to 11 players and seven subs.
"We knew we might have to chase the game and obviously we have got three centre halves on the pitch in Tommy Spurr, Craig Morgan and Cian so I would not think I would have thrown a centre half onto the pitch.
"Unfortunately for Ash he misses out today but I am more than sure he will be a massive presence for us over the next 45 games."