Joey Barton wants his summer shopping to bring the best out of Ash Hunter as he prepares for the 2019/20 season.
Hunter picked up his 13th assist of the campaign in Monday’s 2-1 loss at Blackpool, days after netting his ninth of the season in the 1-1 draw against Peterborough United.
Barton’s vote of confidence comes after Hunter was sacrificed at Bloomfield Road in the aftermath of Nathan Sheron’s red card.
“He is a great player,” Barton said of Hunter.
“He is the one who suffered from the sending off.
“That is the difficulty, you want to keep him on the pitch but we had to adjust tactically.
“Barring a couple of seconds we would have ground out a point in difficult circumstances.
“It is disappointing for Ash but we know the qualities he has got and we need to make sure we do the right recruitment in the summer so that we can showcase his talents next season.”
Hunter had set up Ched Evans’ goal at Blackpool with a rare left-footed cross.
However, Barton revealed that was a result of extra work on the training ground.
He said: “We know the quality his right foot has got so we have been trying to show him a Plan B.
“He has shown on Monday the quality he can deliver with that and it comes down to hard work on the training ground.
“I’m pleased for him but disappointed because we did not take any points.”
Barton admitted he knows full well the areas in which Town need to improve in order to better this season’s mid-table position.
Nevertheless, his focus remains on winning matches with Bristol Rovers, Sunderland and Wycombe Wanderers still to play.
He said: “I don’t think beyond the here and now.
“For me the most important thing is winning games.
“This summer will take care of itself. I’m aware of where we need to strengthen and how we need to do that.
“As a club we have been very well prepared in terms of what is in the marketplace.
“It is a case of acting on that and making sure we get the right people in here.
“For me I do not want another season of it finishing in April and bobbling about in the middle of the table.
“What I have learned this year is, I think if we get the right players in over the summer, we should be top eight challenging for top six.
“We have nearly been there this year even with all the mistakes and learning curves all the players have had to go on, all the while blooding some of the youngsters.”