Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton has admitted that he would love to keep Ched Evans at the club once his loan deal expires, but says he does not know if that will be possible if other offers come in for the striker.
Evans has been in sparkling form for Fleetwood this season, scoring 15 league goals to help Barton’s side to a relatively comfortable 11th position in an otherwise congested division.
The striker is on a season long loan from Sheffield United, though there was reported interest from Championship strugglers Bolton and League One promotion hopefuls Sunderland in taking over the loan in the January transfer window.
That interest never materialised, however, allowing Fleetwood to retain the services of the 30-year-old until the end of the campaign.
But with Sunderland spending as much on agent fees as Fleetwood have in their entire budget, Barton knows that finances may have a part to play in the striker’s future, regardless of how much he wants him to stay, as he told The Blackpool Gazette: “It will be on the finances. I don’t have a magic wand.
“One side in our division (Sunderland) has spent more on agents’ fees than our entire budget. If they decide they want him there is nothing we can do about it. They were sniffing around him in January.”
Discussing the prospect of keeping Evans and Fleetwood’s other loan recruits – including Leeds full-back Lewie Coyle and Stoke defender Harry Souttar – Barton added: “He’s a great player, becoming a real leader in the dressing room. I’d love to have him but I say the same about Coyley, Soutts, Jason Holt – great characters, who really added to our group.”
Evans’ partnership with Paddy Madden has been crucial to Fleetwood avoiding the relegation battle that has engulfed practically half the league this season, so it is little wonder Barton is keen to keep the striker at the club next season.
Though he may be right in saying that other clubs can offer more attractive financial packages than Fleetwood, you wonder whether the opportunities will be as great for Evans elsewhere, and that could the decision that he has to make.
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