Burnley manager Sean Dyche has welcomed Joey Barton into the managerial ranks, praising his former midfielder as “a student of the game”.
Barton will take over League One side Fleetwood in June, as soon as he completes a Football Association ban for gambling.
That was the final controversy in a colourful playing career for the 35-year-old, whose tendency to become involved in distasteful incidents on and off the field often overshadowed his sporting abilities.
But he also cultivated a more cerebral persona, appearing on Question Time, quoting philosophy on Twitter and engaging in a variety of issues away from football.
He enjoyed a close bond with Dyche during two spells at Burnley, helping them win promotion in 2016 and then returning for a final Premier League hurrah last season.
It was, therefore, no surprise to hear Dyche back the unexpected appointment.
“I don’t think it’s such a surprise to me, he has a thirst to coach and manage,” said the Clarets boss.
“He’s a strong professional, Joey. He was first-class (at Burnley) and there is a student of the game in him.
“He wants to learn and progress. He’s got an opinion for sure, a strong opinion, but he doesn’t think he’s got every answer and he’s willing to listen and take advice.”
Dyche was also impressed to see Barton take a chance in the third tier rather than linger in the wings touting himself for more glamorous posts.
“Fleetwood are a very good club but you could argue he could have waited and tried to get in at a higher level,” he said.
“But he’s accepted the challenge and he’s willing to get his hands dirty. I’ve played in those divisions and it’s not easy.”
Dyche takes his side to relegation-threatened Stoke on Sunday, while his side begin from the relative comfort of seventh place.
A Europa League spot awaits them if results fall in their favour between now and the end of the season – particularly if Chelsea oust Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals – but Dyche senses no complacency creeping in.
“We’ve shown before when we got to the first big marker – which is still 40 points – the players still have that appetite to play,” he said.
“There’s no question over my group not going into the game with a winning mentality.”