Fleetwood boss Joey Barton has hailed young centre-half Harry Souttar after a string of impressive performances in recent weeks.
Souttar joined the Cod Army last summer on a season-long loan from Sky Bet Championship side Stoke City. The 6’4″ central defender has made 34 appearances so far this season for a Fleetwood side that are sat in eighth place with two games in hand on the teams around them.
Speaking to Fleetwood Today, Barton heaped praise on the Australian international for his levels of maturity in recent weeks: “Soutts [Souttar] was top-class at Sunderland last week. We’ve known that for a while.
“He has had his season disrupted a little by his Australia international duty.
“He was in the limbo between Stoke’s first team and under-23s, so that didn’t make for the best pre-season for him.
“He came in a little behind our group but has just gone from strength to strength.
“He’s shown enormous maturity. He has changed a couple of things in terms of his personal regime and lifestyle, and it’s really paying dividends. It’s always nice to see a young player come in and start to show the quality Soutts does and he’s turning into an outstanding defender. We have some really good players, all desperate to improve.”
Barton will be hoping that the young Australian can reproduce a similar level of performance for the crucial upcoming games against Ipswich Town and Blackpool as they look to cement themselves a spot in the Sky Bet League One play-offs.
It’s hard to disagree with Barton’s comments here. Souttar has been an ever-present in the Fleetwood side this season that are on the cusp of entering one of those illustrious play-off spaces. His aerial ability not only helps the Cod Army when it comes to attacking and defending set pieces but also when dealing with some of the division’s biggest centre-forwards. His towering presence is enough to put off any target man.
His loan move to Fleetwood was a good decision by those in power at his parent club, Stoke City. Under Barton, Fleetwood play a similar style of football to what Nathan Jones was trying to implement at the Potters at the start of the campaign. The move has allowed him to become an integral part of everything the Fleetwood defensive line do which will massively aid his development.
A season pushing for promotion to the Sky Bet Championship will put Souttar in a strong position when it comes to returning to Stoke. The Potters will have their own ambitions of pushing for promotion at the end of the next campaign. His time with Fleetwood has seen him earn international recognition with the Australian National Team, just another string to his bow when returning to Staffordshire in the summer.