Souttar is on loan at Fleetwood from Stoke City and the burly defender has been in such excellent form in League One, he may be recalled from his loan by Championship side Stoke.

But Fleetwood boss Barton doesn't want to lose the Australian international and believes he has developed further at his club.

"He’s obviously Stoke’s player and they’ve loaned us their player to add value to him and develop,” he told BBC Lancashire.

"We feel we’ve done that and if Soutts went back tomorrow it’s been a fantastic loan for him and both parties should be really pleased with the way it’s played out.

"It’s perfect for the parent club because a young player has got exposure and learnt lessons that he can utilise in their first team. And it’s perfect for us because Soutts has played nearly every game and been first class in everything he’s done.

"We don’t want to lose him but obviously when you don’t own players, that’s the worry. That’s why we were keen to convert Lewie Coyle to a permanent.

"I think Sunderland, Blackpool, a number of clubs were linked with him and we’ve put a lot of development into the player and think he’s really, really improved this year. That’s evidenced by the amount of assists and general performances.

"I think the player has realised he’s on an upward trajectory and was keen to stay at this football club and show this was the place to develop and play his best football before he hopefully moves on to a bigger club, a higher division either with or without us.

"We improve players. That’s the reality of it."