Nigel Pearson makes Bristol City 43-word free agent admission amid Rob Atkinson injury

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The Robins will stick with what they’ve got - unless things get worse

Nigel Pearson says that he is not considering making any moves in the free agent market despite Rob Atkinson’s season-ending injury for Bristol City.

Atkinson has ruptured his cruciate ligament and will undergo surgery in the next fortnight. He was stretchered off in the 1-1 draw against Sunderland, and early fears have now been confirmed by the Robins boss. The former Oxford United defender has forged a strong partnership with Zak Vyner, and since reverting to a four-at-the-back system, City have been unbeaten, with no defeat since the turn of the New Year.

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Central defence is an area of the field that could not afford any injuries, either short-term or long-term, given the lack of options available to the 59-year-old. In January, City tried to sign Jake O’Brien from Crystal Palace but were unsuccessful and he remained at Belgium club RWD Molenbeek.

The club parted ways with experienced defender Timm Klose on deadline day, and he has since returned to Switzerland, where he hopes to begin his coaching career. Klose is available but a return is extremely unlikely, whilst there Eliaquim Mangala, Havard Nordtveit, and Joso Simunovic are the only real free transfer options available, who have had the experience of football in the British Isles.

"No, not really," Pearson responded when asked if there was any consideration for dipping their toes into the free agent market to add defensive cover.

"I don’t really want to bring in players. I’d rather explore what we have within. Let’s just see how it goes. If things change I will let you know, but at the moment that’s something that I’m particularly looking at."

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The injury comes as a big blow to City, with Kal Naismith out until the international break at the end of March and Klose having departed the club in January, the Robins are left with just two fit senior centre-backs; Kalas and Vyner. Kalas missed the end of last season and the first half of the current campaign, but his recent return to first-team action will be vital for the Robins over the coming weeks.

Pearson added: “We’ll just have to deal with the situation that comes along, we tried to get another centre back in the window but couldn’t do it. We’ve got options, Pringy’s played there, George (Tanner) has played there and done very well as well, and Andy King’s an option too, but we don’t have too many cards to play.”

The Czech defender replaced Atkinson at the Stadium of Light and looked assured alongside Vyner as a late Nahki Wells penalty earned the visitors a point. Kalas’ contract expires in the summer, and the unfortunate situation provides an opportunity for the 29-year-old to earn a new deal in the West Country.

When asked whether Kalas is eager to extend his stay at City, Pearson replied: “That’s a question that you’d have to ask him, but I think yes is the answer to that. Tomas knows exactly what the situation is, he’s played very little football for a year so it’s in our best interest to make sure that he’s able to play regularly again.

“That’s just the way it is, I’m afraid there are no shortcuts. I’m glad we’ve got him, he’s a good player and he’s good around the place too, so let’s see what the next few weeks bring.”

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