Barton set to play for League Two 'Cod Army'
Joey Barton is apparently ready to turn out for League Two Fleetwood Town against Tranmere Rovers in a pre-season friendly as his controversial career takes another bizarre twist.
The former England midfielder remains under contract with Queens Park Rangers despite being left behind by the Premier League club for their pre-season tour of Malaysia.
He has been given permission to train with a club nicknamed 'The Cod Army' and played for 45 minutes in a 4-1 win over Scottish side Kilmarnock in a closed-doors friendly match in midweek.
Manager Mick Mellon is bizarrely now ready to hand him a full debut this weekend.
“I have so many things to sort out on coming back from Scotland with the team, that I haven’t really had time to think a lot about Joey and Saturday," said Mellon.
“I am led to believe that Joey could play for us on Saturday, and until somebody tells me the opposite he is allowed to play.
“He is a few weeks behind us because he hasn’t trained as much, but he has been a real, positive influence on the group.
“You can see that everyone wants to get to his high standards.”
Barton's last taste of competitive action came when he was sent off in disgrace in QPR's 3-2 loss at Manchester City in the Premier League on the final day of last term.
He was banned for 12 matches by the Football Association, stripped of the QPR captaincy and fined £75,000 by the London club.
“It feels painful and I’m a little bit stiff," said Barton after returning to action with the club from near Blackpool.
“This was only my fifth day of pre-season after eight or nearly nine weeks sitting with my feet up after the exploits of Premier League season last year.
“They (Fleetwood players) have been away in Austria and doing quite an intensive pre-season programme.
“This was about their third or fourth game now, and you can see that.
“They are really sharp and starting to look like a team.
“It was just a pleasure to be out there and get a sweat on.
“It’s a start to that much-needed fitness and that’s the whole reason of coming to Fleetwood.”