Fleetwood manager Joey Barton is “supremely confident” ahead of hosting Wycombe on Friday in the first leg of the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-finals.
The former Newcastle and Manchester City midfielder heaped praise on his players for the professionalism they showed during the suspension of sport in the UK.
At various points it seemed the third tier of English football may be decided on a points-per-game basis, but the play-offs have been allowed to go ahead and the Cod Army are three games from reaching the Championship.
Wycombe travel to Highbury Stadium on Friday before the second leg takes place at Adams Park on Monday and Barton cannot wait to do battle with Gareth Ainsworth’s side.
He said: “You have to trust your players and trust your staff to know they are getting everything they need and I have nothing to fault. No one has cut any corners.
Cod Army boss @Joey7Barton sat down and spoke to iFollow this afternoon to discuss the upcoming @SkyBetLeagueOne play-off semi-final first leg against @wwfcofficial at Highbury 📺#OnwardTogether— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) June 29, 2020
“Every single one has come back ahead of where they were at last pre-season and I don’t take that for granted. It is easy in the off-season to hear there will be no promotion or relegation and it would be easy as a player to lose focus and concentration.
“It is hard to keep training for 12 to 13 weeks when there is no guarantee at the end of it. You have to be incredibly motivated and hugely professional.
“If you haven’t been and you’ve not put in the running or gym session, when you are back to business those moments of weakness will be exploited.
“On the wall here it says ‘confidence comes from good preparation’ and we’re supremely confident because our preparation has been superb.”
Barton appeared to start the mind games with Wycombe boss Ainsworth early by insisting Friday’s opponents could not have prepared better than his Fleetwood, who were fifth when League One was suspended.
However, he then went on to add he knew the Chairboys would also not leave any stone unturned in their pursuit of promotion to the second tier.
“Now the best that Wycombe could have done is match us,” Barton said.
“There is no way they could have prepared better than us and if they’ve matched us, then we will have a phenomenal encounter over the two legs in the next week or so.
“Knowing Gaz and their team, I can almost guarantee they would have done the work and there will be no stone unturned.
“It is as big an opportunity for their club as it is for us so we have prepared for the best of them and we hope to give the best of ourselves on Friday night and after that we will see where we are at.”
This is the 37-year-old’s first taste of the play-offs as a manager and whatever happens, he is proud of his squad for their efforts this season.
Even though he felt they may have been able to secure automatic promotion had Covid-19 not halted the season prematurely, Barton is pleased they have a shot at going up in just his second season as a head coach.
He added: “If you’d spoke to us in August and said you will have three games to win to get in the Championship, you’ll have to beat Wycombe twice home and away and then one of Oxford or Portsmouth, I think anybody would have taken that.”
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