Joey Barton bid farewell to the “worst team” he has been involved with in trademark fashion on Sunday, as Bristol Rovers suffered their 28th defeat of a miserable season at Blackpool.
Substitute Ellis Simms contributed the game’s only goal, coming off the bench to beat debutant keeper Jed Ward with a volley 15 minutes from time to wrap up a third-placed finish for the hosts.
For the Gas, however, a hellish campaign has ended at rock bottom of League One, and Barton – never shy in dealing in brutal honesty – is relieved that the rebuild for next season in League Two can begin.
“The focus for me now is when we do have fans back in August is them having a team they can follow and be proud of,” he said.
“There’s a natural line drawn under it thankfully. It’s the worst team I’ve been involved in, I can’t dress it up any other way. There’s lads there who wouldn’t get in our school football team, never mind play professional football, but that’s what we’ve got and now I’ve got the job on in the morning of exiting them out of the building and letting them know where their futures lie and they won’t be at this football club.
“As cruel as that is, it’s either that or we don’t win games and we get relegated and we’re five points adrift at the bottom of the table.
“Some tough decisions need to be made, but I’m really clear in my mind about how we move forward and how we progress.
“By the time the Gasheads get in, they will have a football team they can be proud to follow.”
Sunday’s game followed the increasingly monotonous plot which has been the storyline of Rovers’ campaign. They were competitive, but missed chances and conceded a soft goal en route to defeat.
Barton will meet Rovers’ players tomorrow to discuss their futures, with many at the end of their time at the club.
“I’ve already informed a few of the guys because they not here today and there’s no point in dragging them in on Monday,” the manager continued.
“I put them out of their misery yesterday. They’re not bad people, but we’re not running a charity here.
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“They’re good lads and they’ve given everything they’ve had, but they have been let down by people who are meant to get them in shape, people who are meant to get them organised.
“The Titanic hit the iceberg long before I got here. I came in with the staff and I’ve tried to bail the water out. There was moments where maybe we thought we could get it re-floated, but the damage was done.
“It was such a gaping hole and at this level, you can’t get away with it.”