Why ignoring 'pantomime villain' Joey Barton might be the best thing for Sunderland fans to do ahead of Fleetwood Town clash

The games are coming thick and fast as Sunderland prepare for the visit of Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town tonight, then a trip to Birmingham to play Coventry City on Sunday.

Neither of these games will be easy, Coventry are flying right now while I don’t think there is any team in this division that Joey Barton would rather beat than Sunderland.

Whatever anybody thinks of Joey Barton, he is doing a remarkable job at Fleetwood and he has got his team punching well above their weight - he will be relishing tonight’s game.

I doubt he would mind in the slightest what sort of reception he gets, the only thing he won’t want is to be ignored.

Joey Barton, Fleetwood Town manager.

His past Newcastle connections probably mean that is unlikely to happen and I am sure that he will be more than happy to play the pantomime villain but he and his Fleetwood players, who are currently in a play-off spot, can’t be underestimated - they will be a big threat tonight.

The Coventry game has been chosen as a game for live TV and I am not surprised as both teams have genuine automatic promotion hopes but the live screening won’t deter our fans, last year’s corresponding fixture was also a TV game but that didn’t stop thousands going and there will probably be thousands there again on Sunday.

We might be playing the same team but it is a different venue as Coventry’s home games this year are played 25-miles down the road at Birmingham City’s ground, St Andrew’s.

That makes Coventry’s current second position even more impressive, considering they have got to play all of their home games at somebody else’s place, it has got to be a disadvantage.

Ever player - and ex-player for that matter - knows how important home advantage is.

I used to love playing at Roker Park, we all knew it was our best chance for points so having Roker taken away and playing at another ground would have been a huge blow, so credit to the Coventry players for how well they have adapted to their temporary surroundings.

So, two massive tests for Sunderland coming up against two in-form teams.

Sunderland will have to be at their best against one team were the manager is an old rival and is sure to have his team fired up, the other with a team that is riding high despite not even having a home to call their own.