Former Bristol Rovers striker hails ‘great’ Ian Holloway as transfer pursuit revealed

Barry Hayles played a season-and-a-half under Ian Holloway at Bristol Rovers and sung his praises.

Former Bristol Rovers striker Barry Hayles has hailed his former manager Ian Holloway for his man management. Holloway brought Hayles to the Memorial Stadium from Stevenage Borough in 1997 for £250,000.

Hayles began his career in the non-league with Willesden Hawkeye and later moved on to Stevenage, helping them to the Conference title in 1996. He scored 60 goals in 117 games in a three-year spell but after they were denied promotion he moved to Rovers.

The Lambeth-born forward was a long-term target for Rovers and was someone that was tracked by Holloway for an entire season. It was the beginning of what would be a long career in professional football.

After Rovers exchanged a quarter of a million pounds for Hayles, who was formerly a  defender, there was pressure on him to succeed. Andy Tillson, signed from QPR in 1992 was signed for £370,000, which still remains the club record fee.

“Yeah there was definitely pressure on my shoulders,” responded to the Daily Star. “The manager had called me the summer before and said he’d come back in, and true to his word he did. "He said he would build a team that would get me goals and my first season I got the golden boot in the third tier with 23 in the league.”

The gamble to pay such a fee for a striker that had only played in the non-league paid off after a valuable contribution in his first season, scoring on his debut against Plymouth Argyle. Hayles’ time with Rovers and Holloway only spanned a season-and-a-half.

He scored 25 goals in 45 league matches and finished as the league’s top scorer that season, but Rovers fell to Northampton Town in the play-offs, despite a 3-1 victory in the first leg. The forward was sold to Fulham, who went on to win promotion to Division One and became a Premier League player four years after his move to Rovers.

He said: “Holloway was a great man-manager - he knew when to have fun and when things needed to be serious. We had a lot of fun."

Hayles, at the age of 50-years-old, still plays now and is at his 20th club, turning out for non-league side Windsor, where he is a player-coach.