Joey Barton prepared for Fleetwood Town’s trip to Sunderland by joking the away end might include some Newcastle United supporters.
The former Magpies midfielder made the tongue-in-cheek observation considering Newcastle are without a game thanks to the international break.
Though Sunderland might have a crowd that will be 10 times the size of Town’s average gate, Barton stressed that – when it comes to fans – quality rather than quantity is what counts.
That was never more apparent than in Town’s win over Bradford City last weekend as, following Wes Burns’ red card, the home supporters roared their players on to victory.
Barton said: “Newcastle do not have a game at the weekend so we might have a few more fans in the Stadium of Light than is normal for a Fleetwood away game – who knows?
“We saw at the weekend about how important they (Town’s fans) are.
“Saturday was the first time in the stadium, I felt our team was really buoyed on by the fans.
“They really believed we could win that game and that filtered through onto the pitch.”
Despite his Newcastle association, Barton has credited Sunderland’s fans for sticking with them through consecutive relegations.
Jack Ross took charge at the Stadium of Light over the summer and is now hoping to bring smiles back to the Black Cats’ supporters.
Barton said: “I respect Sunderland; it is a fantastic football club, no doubt about it.
“The fans have stuck with them because it has not been an easy time to stick with them, especially when you see Newcastle doing well.
“It must be hard because it is a working class area of the country.
“They are passionate about their football club, I can test to that, I’ve played in many derbies against them and I know how much they put into it.
“It is a great stadium, a lovely pitch, a great footballing pitch, especially if you are a good footballing side.
“It is a passionate crowd; they care about their football team, they care enough to create an atmosphere in there which is electric.
“Hopefully they create one on Saturday because it will be great for our lads to go in and test themselves in that.
“Judging on the attendance from last weekend it says that the fans at Sunderland are starting to believe in their football team for the first time in probably five years because they have had a tough time.
“Unfortunately for those football fans they have not had much to smile about for a period of time.”