Exclusive: Bristol City leading race for out-of-contract Northampton Town centre-back

Robins in front of several clubs for the signature of 25-year-old defender Fraser Horsfall.

<p>Rhys Oates of Mansfield Town is tackled by Fraser Horsfall of Northampton Town.</p>

Rhys Oates of Mansfield Town is tackled by Fraser Horsfall of Northampton Town.

Bristol City have held talks over signing free agent central defender Fraser Horsfall, who is expected to leave Northampton Town this summer.

BristolWorld understands that the Robins are leading the race for the 25-year-old’s signature, after Horsfall enjoyed a standout 2021/22 campaign at Sixfields Stadium.

The Cobblers finished fourth in League Two and then lost in the play-offs to Mansfield Town, and manager Jon Brady has offered a new deal to Horsfall, whose two-year contract there ends this summer.

However, there is significant interest from teams in both League One and the Championship in the defender, and a move up the English football pyramid beckons.

Brady has offered new contracts to to out-of-contract Cobblers trio Horsfall, Liam Roberts and Shaun McWilliams, who have all been described as ‘excellent’ this past 12 months by local reporters.

Horsfall netted nine goals across the league season as the 6ft3’ defender made 45 appearances in League Two, and would offer an addded goal threat from the back for the Robins - if a a deal is completed.

He has been rated as being the sixth best player in the division by the Opta-match-statistics powered WhoScored.com website.

Horsfall has been captaining the Northampton team in the absence of regular skipper Joseph Mills, and that leadership is sure to be another attraction for Bristol City.

“We had an excellent season but whatever the circumstances, we fell short by the narrowest of margins. With that in mind, we need to create room in the squad to try and improve and take that next step,” said Brady last week.

“As we did last summer, we will undergo a thorough recruitment process again and we have already started meeting with players and agents ahead of the new season.”

Bristol City are in front of other sides for the player’s signature, according to our sources, as things stand, for the player who was positioned on the left of the back three when Northampton were beaten 4-0 in the EFL Cup by Dean Holden’s side at an unattended Ashton Gate last season.

Horsfall came through the ranks at Huddersfield Town before spending time at Kidderminster Harriers and Mansfield Town. He has played twice for the England C team and played 53 times across all competitions in 2021/22.

Should the Robins tie up a deal for the centre-back - and BristolWorld has reported recently that Nigel Pearson has been watching other central defenders too, such as when Oxford United played MK Dons towards the end of the season - it could have a knock-on effect.

The West Country outfit are currently in contract discussions with Timm Klose and Robbie Cundy over extending their stay at Ashton Gate.

BristolWorld understands that there is interest from other sides in Cundy and it is not a given that the former Bath City player remains in BS3. The 24-year-old has been described as having some ‘really good options’ on the table to decide from.

Pearson explained to BBC Radio Bristol last week that there is no deadline for the contract talks but that the club would eventually move on if agreements cannot be found.

“We don’t tend to put time limits on [contract talks] because sometimes that can become an issue in itself,” said the Bristol City manager last Monday.

Central defender Fraser Horsfall playing for Northampton Town.

“The bottom line is that we will and I will move on if things are not done.”

Pearson added that: “In terms of Timm and Robbie Cundy, Robbie’s had his issues with injury and in some ways that one is a bit of a risk but I think he deserves it [a new contract].

“I think Timm as well. Those offers are out there but I’m sure that him and his agent are taking their time over it to make sure it’s the right thing for them.

“That’s where it’s at... Timescale? Of course we’d like to agree sooner rather than later but if not then we’ll start looking elsewhere. And we’ve got other options,” Pearson added. Horsfall is one.

The status of longest-serving player Nathan Baker is also to be confirmed by Bristol City, following the centre-back being unavailable since November due to a head knock picked up in the loss at Sheffield United.

CEO Richard Gould recently explained that the player’s welfare is paramount, following two concussions earlier this season, and that what happens next will become apparent over the coming weeks.

The Robins have no interest in Arsenal defender Ryan Alebiosu at this moment, despite recent media links.

Defenders Taylor Moore and Zak Vyner are expected to leave Bristol City this summer.