Joey Barton admits he isn’t expecting a warm reception from Sunderland fans when they travel to Fleetwood this evening - but that he would relish sending them home with ‘tears in their eyes’
The former Newcastle United midfielder will be aiming to inflict only a fourth league defeat of the campaign on the Black Cats as he looks to sign-off his first season in the dugout in style.
And while the Black Cats - who still have an outside chance of automatic promotion - are heavy favourites, Barton believes his side should hold no fear when facing their more experienced counterparts this evening.
“You look at Fleetwood as a town and there are more people in Sunderland’s ground when they have a sell-out,” said the Fleetwood boss, speaking to the Blackpool Gazette.
“The challenge here is that this is a relatively new club in football terms. We don’t have hundreds of years or traditions.
“What we have got is an ambitious owner [Andy Pilley, who believes in the town, the progress the club is making and we don’t fear anyone.
“It will be a fantastic occasion to test yourself against players who have played in the Premier League and the Championship.
“We have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and as a former Newcastle player I expect to get a very ‘friendly’ reception.
“It would be very pleasing to send them back with tears in their eyes.”
Barton is expecting a sizeable travelling contingent to follow Sunderland down from Wearside - and believes the atmosphere will provide a ‘great occasion’ for his players.
Indeed, he is hopeful that the Cod Army can replicate the performance that earned them a point from their visit to the Stadium of Light in September.
“They will probably bring hordes down from the north-east,” added Barton.
“ It’s a game that they have to win to have a chance of the automatic positions.
“Again, it’s a great occasion for the players to test themselves, especially the younger players.
“It will be a full house, though I’m not sure what weather we will get but there’s a good chance it will be windy.
“There’s a great playing surface, playing against one of the better sides in the division. At the Stadium of Light we caused a lot of problems for large periods.
“Hopefully we get a bit of decent weather and give another good performance.”