Exclusive: Bristol City manager makes personal check on Oxford United and MK Dons talents

Robins boss made a visit to the Kassam Stadium last week to watch several League One players, with the summer transfer window ahead.

<p>Nigel Pearson, manager of Bristol City.</p>

Nigel Pearson, manager of Bristol City.

Bristol City have plans for the summer transfer window and manager Nigel Pearson has a list of priority targets that he wishes to strengthen his squad with.

BristolWorld can reveal that that the Robins boss took in last Tuesday’s (19 April) game between Oxford United and MK Dons in person as he watched possible additions for the next window.

The former Leicester City boss was spotted in the crowd at the Kassam for a match that included many scouts and several high profile attendees from other clubs. Portsmouth’s Danny Cowley and QPR director of football Les Ferdinand also took in the game that finished 1-0 to the U’s.

Pearson explained recently that there “are intentions to strengthen the squad” and that “if we bring players in I want them to be better than what we’ve got”.

“We’re always looking at how we progress and when we can,” he explained further ahead of the Easter fixtures.

“In terms of how we shape the squad, there are plans in place. It’s always a mixture of planning for the future, how you get from A to B, but of course A is the most important place, and that is the present.”

Bristol City use a limited scout network, confirmed previously to this writer comprising Fraser Franks and Allan Gemmell, with Martin O’Connor joining Birmingham City earlier this season. And usually when the manager makes a personal check on the players, it means that scouting is far down the line as regards pursuing that player.

Therefore, keep an eye out for some of these players over the summer, as the Robins look to recruit and improve in 2022/23, without turning to the loan market.

The men being watched

Luke McNally, 22

Luke McNally after scoring for Oxford United.

Bristol City signed Rob Atkinson from the U’s last summer and it may be that the West Country outfit return again for another defender.

And Oxford United keep finding top centre-halfs, year on year. Luke McNally is the latest, after Atkinson and QPR’s Rob Dickie.

However the 6ft4’ Republic of Ireland U19s centre-back may have interested clubs from higher up the English pyramid than City to choose from, if he moves in the summer.

The central defender is on the wish list of many sides and has even been linked with a bid from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

Mark Sykes, 24

Josh Grant is pushing for a return to the Bristol Rovers XI. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

The Belfast-born midfielder has gone on to make the switch from the Northern Ireland youth ranks to the Republic of Ireland senior side, being named in Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland squad to face Belgium and Lithuania last month.

He remained an unused sub for those two games, but has eight goals and five assists to his name in League One this season and no doubt his time will come again at international level.

Out of contract this summer and of interest to several Championship sides. His contract status could make him very appealing.

Has been playing right wing-back this season for the Yellows but can play several midfield positions too, and is often higher up the pitch.

Cameron Brannagan, 25

Cameron Brannagan celebrates after scoring for the U’s.

Central midfielder Brannagan had a fairly quiet Sunday night: the former Liverpool youth player picked up the club’s goal of the season award, player’s player of the season award and supporters’ player of the season award at Oxford United’s end of season event.

(Oh and some guy called Matty Taylor picked up the club’s golden boot, after 20 goals in the league this season).

The former England U20 player has had a standout season with 14 goals in the league from the middle of the pitch, and he is undoubtedly one of League One’s best midfielders.

Scott Twine, 22

Scott Twine said Dons will only be focusing on winning the next three games and not on other results, even though their play-off fate could be decided this afternoon.

The Swindon-born attacker has been one of League One’s players of the year for MK Dons, with a very healthy 16 goals and 13 assists from 43 matches in the third tier.

Played in the pre-season loss to Bristol City at the Robins High Performance Centre back last July, when he may have piqued interest. We remember him being very loud on the pitch.

Twine may be in that Ivan Toney bracket of guaranteed quality from the third tier however, and cost a fair bit to go with it. Also MK Dons may yet be a Championship side next season.

Herbie Kane, 26

Age: 23; Position: Centre midfield; Fifa career mode market value: £1.5m

A romantic return to Ashton Gate for former Bristol City youth player Kane? The Oxford United midfielder is on loan from Barnsley, after joining the Tykes permanently from Liverpool in October 2020 for a reported fee of £1.25m.

Has enjoyed a good year under Karl Robinson, playing 35 times in the league and recording six assists.

He could be of use to Barnsley in League One again next season, however.

Harry Darling, 22

Harry Darling celebrates his first class goal against Morecambe at Stadium MK. It was the defender’s ninth goal of the season, and put them in pole position to take the three points on Saturday.

Being unlikely to hold an interest in loan players Troy Parrott or Conor Coventry from Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham respectively, the Bristol City manager may have been running his eye over MK Dons centre-back Harry Darling.

In his second season for the Buckinghamshire outfit following a switch from Cambridge United and League Two (and following non-League loans), Darling is another young defender playing very well in League One, who could supplement the Robins backline.

Has hit six goals in the league, with another three in cup competitions as he approaches double figures from the back.