Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton claims Fleetwood did him a ‘favour’ by sacking him
The 40-year-old began his managerial career at Fleetwood Town - Bristol Rovers’ opponents on Saturday
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Such is the life of a football manager, Barton’s job looked to have been secure at Highbury Stadium but in the life of football management, three months is a long time The 40-year-old takes charge of Bristol Rovers against his former club for the first time since his departure from Lancashire almost two years ago.
Barton managed The Cods for two-and-a-half years, however, was removed from his role in January 2021 by the owner, Andy Pilley. The 40-year-old has disclosed that he was offered a new contract, just before his exit.
“We had a discussion, the owner wanted to give me a new deal and I wanted all the people that worked for me to benefit, he didn’t want to do that,” he said.
“I decided not to sign as I felt it would’ve been the wrong signal for me to sign a new deal and not uplift the staff who had got me there and I think that was the first crack.
Barton did not remain out of the management scene for long and took up the reins at Rovers just over a month later. He succeed Paul Tisdale and became the Gas’ third manager in a season and was unable to stave off the threat of relegation.
At the time of his departure, he left Fleetwood in 10th and were just three points off of the playoffs. A season prior to his sacking, Barton had taken Fleetwood to the League One play-offs, losing to Wycombe Wanderers over two legs.
In just nine months, Barton had gone from being on the cusp of the Championship with Fleetwood to League Two with Bristol Rovers. Fast forward to almost two years in the job at the Mem and the two teams’ aim is to hold their place in the third tier.
“He (Andy Pilley) realised I wasn’t going to sign an extension so he decided to accelerate me out in January and I accepted that.
“I must be one of the only managers to get removed for having more ambition than the owner and that’s the reality.
“In hindsight, I think he’s done me a favour in sacking us, there would’ve been some very difficult conversations because my ambitions for the group, and being better than the year before would’ve got me really frustrated.”
For what was Barton’s first crack in management, the ex-Burnley man was able to steer an unfancied club to dizzying heights. Rovers are arguably a bigger club than Fleetwood but have not reached the playoffs since the turn of the century.
It was a role that he took immense pride in and has helped shape him into the coach that he is today. Barton’s right-hand man Andy Mangan was with him at Fleetwood and has since followed him down South. Harvey Saunders, Sam Finley, Glenn Whelan, Jordan Rossiter, and Paul Coutts all featured for Fleetwood before following Barton and co also.
“I felt we did ourselves proud,” Barton said. “I think the way we played, the results profile, player progression, etc. I think we can be really proud of the job we did there. For me, it was a very important learning space.
“It was the first time I’d ever been head coach and I learned so much there I will always be thankful for the support I received from everybody in the town and at the football club.
“We had a great time at the club, made some good friends on and off the pitch, the way we played and the results profile, the player progression. I think that we can be really proud of the job we did there.
“For me, it was a very important learning space, the first time I’d ever been a head coach and I learned so much there. I’ll always be thankful for the support I received.
“Their infrastructure, their training ground is a testament to Andy’s belief and his vision for the area, but on the other side of that they are a side that will be in our way in the game on Saturday and for me, sentiment and feelings about people will go out of the window. We are desperate to pick up three points and win in front of our fans.”