Joey Barton opens up on his future as Bristol Rovers manager with the threat of League One relegation for the 2020/21 season.
Joey Barton was asked about Bristol Rovers and their relegation battle and how it relates to his stay ahead of Tuesday’s high-stakes clash with Swindon Town at the Memorial Stadium.
The club currently sit in 20th place in the League One table, only above of the relegation places on goal difference after suffering consecutive defeats against Charlton Athletic and Plymouth Argyle.
Joey Barton remains adamant that he can guide Bristol Rovers to League One safety with 10 games remaining, however BristolLive asked the manager if he sees his future at the club, should they end up playing League Two football again for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign.
“Absolutely, I’m all-in here,” Barton replied. “I’ve come here with bigger picture stuff in play.
“The club have given me enormous backing bringing me in, the fanbase has given me enormous backing, welcoming me to the club and supporting me.
“I know that’s not everybody and I’ve had a few conversions. There’s been a few on the road to Damascus. I’ve had the emails in of people who didn’t want me in at the start who are now seeing what we’re here for.
“My commitment to the people and the football club is that we will get this right and we will leave no stone unturned in bringing success back to Rovers.
“At this moment in time, we’re all-in, there’s no other way with me. I’m either all-in or all-out.”
Joey Barton adds that changes are needed at Bristol Rovers in the summer, regardless of what league the Gas are playing in. Fair to say that’s an understatement as the fanbase knows.
“I’m crystal clear in what needs to be done,” he said. “I almost feel like a surgeon who knows the operation, knows what parts of the patient need to be cut out, but there’s a time that it needs to be done and I’ve got to do that in the privacy of the operating theatre.
“I can’t do that in the public space, because it just can’t be done there.
“It’s got to be done in the operating theatre with anaesthetic, with all the correct tools to make sure there’s no infection.
“You’ve got to make sure the patient is taken care of and the patient in this case is Bristol Rovers football club.”
Joey, I imagine that was a frustrating watch. Your team did a lot of good stuff, but you couldn’t get it done in either box.
Yeah, that’s where the game takes place unfortunately. We huffed and puffed at the end but we need to be a little bit more clinical and ruthless.
It was a combination of snatching at chances and obviously good defending on their behalf. They defended their goal with their lives and that’s why they take three points today. We were too soft.
You’ve got to credit them for some good defending, but you had almost 20 shots on goal. You’ve got to convert some of those if you want to get yourselves out of where you are.
Yeah, and that’s why the people unlock that door and put the ball in the back of that net are so difficult to come by.
The goals we give away are just abysmal. Any goal you give away is poor, but the manner and timing when we give them away is certainly a concern.
You can’t help the front side of the team unless you keep the back door closed, because it then tails the pressure off the lads at the other end.
Effort and application second half, the lads kept fighting right to the end trying to get back in it, but today is wasn’t good enough.
We now go into a phase of 10 games when we’re fighting for our footballing lives, the lads are fully aware of that.
We’re trying to climb Everest and those that can come with us, great, because the higher we go now, the altitude, the air gets thinner and if we’ve got any passengers, they’ll cause casualties along the way.
So on Monday morning, we might lose one or two, because we can’t have any dead weight trying to summit this mountain that is in front of us for our League One survival.
With the defensive situation, most of the attacks, certainly the ones where they were creating the goals, came down their left, your right. Is that a personnel issue or a system thing that needs fixing?
You have to go away and analyse it. I’ll go back and watch the game and I’ll probably have a better answer for you than the emotive touchline response.
But clearly it’s an area for concern. I didn’t think there was a dangerous spell in the game up until their first goal. If anything, we were the side looking more likely to create or score a goal, and the sucker punch.
I felt we were too deep in the first 20 minutes. The second goal we gave away is really poor.
We made a change at half time and I thought we were better in the second half, but the damage was done.
You can’t give goals away at any level, certainly not two of them.
The fact these goals, when you’re playing well in matches, keep happening. Is that a psychological issue, is that the players not quite being good enough?
It’s a cumulative totting up of probably multiple things. We’ve obviously got a new goalie today and a new middle centre-back, who clearly haven’t been playing the right amount of minutes recently.
We’ve got a few chops and changes though the lineup, because of Sammy Nicholson and Alex Rodman and Josh Grant with a few injuries.
The lads who came in have got to nail down those places and show they can be starting players for us.
I think today they’ll be disappointed, and in the build-up I said sometimes in life you only get one opportunity. They’ll be praying for another opportunity, but that might be a while before it comes.
You mentioned there are 10 games left to go, it’s a precarious position. What’s the message to the players over the next couple of months, because the whole season is going to come down to what you do over the next six weeks?
I think everyone’s aware of what’s at stake. We’re fighting for our footballing lives. When you’re fighting for your life, you have to approach it with a certain aggression and desire, and there’s moments in the game where I don’t think that was at the required level.
That’s disappointing. The players ultimately take to the pitch and they have to execute.
When it goes well, they get all the plaudits, and when it doesn’t they have to take the flak that comes with it.
Performance-wise, that second half and that fight and level of effort to try to get back in the game is something we can certainly take out as a positive, but moments in the first half, we cannot afford to have many more like that for the next 10 games, because if we do we’ll give ourselves a very, very difficult task.
We’ve already got a difficult one. I spoke to the players about how this is our Everest, and if we don’t have full buy-in, and everyone’s not fully aware of that, then they won’t come on this journey with us, because we’re going to get the job done.
We’re all-in here. I’ve moved away from my family, the coaching staff have moved away from their families, and this will get done. That’s all I can promise the Rovers fans.
That’s what we’re here for, it’s not just about this season, it’s not just about staying in the division this season. Obviously that’s something we want to do and we will exhaust every avenue we can to get that job done, but whatever it takes to make this team and this club successful, it will get done.
The last five minutes before half time are a massive period and it’s a period where Rovers have struggled all season. Why do you think that is? It’s a crucial moment to concede a goal and it’s not the first time it’s happened, not just in your tenure but throughout the season for this group of players.
Because they’re ill-prepared. That’s why.
Whatever’s gone before me, what’s happened since pre-season, they’ve been ill-prepared. They have been drilled incorrectly for the task at hand and the league table shows you that.
We’ve got to right that wrong as quickly as we can.
Whose fault it is, I don’t care. I’m not here to find fault, I’m here to find solution. If we look for fault, there’ll be fingers pointed everywhere.
You only have to read the forums or the papers or the comments on social media to find where they think fault lies. That doesn’t serve me or the boys any credit to get the job done.
We need to get together, we need to be fully committed to summiting this mountain for the next period, and if we’re not then it’s my job to root that out root and branch at this moment in time.
At some point, the dust will settle and we’ll be able to pick the bones out of why the club got itself in this situation, but that is for the privacy of our training ground, our boardroom and that’s for another day.
At this moment in time, all my energy has got to be focused on results and performances for the next 10 games.
I don’t have any excess energy to speculate on reasons why we concede when we concede, but usually it comes down to fitness levels, usually it comes down to work on the training ground and recruitment.
Clearly, the club’s in the situation it’s in for multiple factors, not just one. It won’t just be one person or one decision. There’s multiple decisions.
As I say, I’m not here to find that. I’m here to find solutions to make us better so we get the maximum opportunity of summiting the mountain and keeping this football club in the division.
As Joey Barton opens up on his Bristol Rovers future, can you see them staying up or going down? Let us know on our socials!