Joey Barton: Good football and success key to getting next generation of Fylde coast kids to support Fleetwood Town rather than Blackpool or AFC Fylde
Joey Barton says good football and success are key to getting the next generation to support Fleetwood Town rather than Blackpool or AFC Fylde.
Town's clash with Gillingham on Saturday is a 'Junior Football Day' with free admission to all local U16 football sides and 750 youngsters set to visit Highbury.
Barton is no doubt as to the need for Town to grow their fanbase.
He said: "In this area Blackpool have been the dominant club for the last century or so.
"The only way you convert those fans is by being successful.
"You hope the next generation choose to support Fleetwood as their local side.
"We have to win games and play good football for that to happen.
"You are fighting against 100 years of history; one way to engage them is to get them in the stadium and let them enjoy the football.
"I do think we have a good young fanbase. The fans I meet, there are lots of positives in that you do see lots of young football people, girls and boys in kits.
"Sport is a great vehicle to stay healthy, make new friends, broaden your cultural horizons and develop yourself as a person.
"For this football club to be at the centre of the community in the way it is, is a credit to the foresight and vision of the owner (Andy Pilley) who put that in place.
"It has come a long way but it has a long way to go if it is going to be the biggest club in this part of the Fylde coast."
Town have 12 games left of the season going into the game with Gillingham.
They are level on points with Blackpool, who are set to be boosted by thousands of returning fans next week following the removal of Owen Oyston and Natalie Christopher from the Seasiders' board.
Consequently, Barton is relishing the thought of a full Bloomfield Road for Town's trip there next month.
"Us and Blackpool have got a good challenge going to see who finishes higher in the league table," he said.
"I think that game at Blackpool could be a different emphasis, certainly with the good news they have had in terms of getting rid of the Oystons.
"Both sides have an outside chance of getting in the play-offs. It will be a good occasion for the people of the Fylde coast."
As for Saturday's game, Ashley Nadesan (hamstring) and Ryan Taylor (broken noses) are doubts for Town.
Dean Marney (calf) is out for four weeks while Ross Wallace serves the second of his two-match ban for 10 yellow cards.
At the other end of the pitch, Barton has backed Stoke City loanee Harry Souttar to deal with the threat posed by Gills striker Tom Eaves.
He said: "We will have to make a plan to deal with Tom who is one of the top goalscorers in this division.
"You are mindful of players who have scored a load of goals because they can be the difference in tight affairs.
"Last time we played Gillingham we did not have anyone Tom's size so he was able to use his physicality.
"It is probably one of the one times this season he will face someone taller than him.
"It will be a different challenge for him and the way Harry is playing at the moment you would fancy him against anyone."