Bristol Rovers boss compares Liverpool and Burnley defenders after loan stints

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The Gas boss said who he’d have preferred to have for the whole season

Joey Barton has praised Bobby Thomas’ contribution to Bristol Rovers as the defender returns to the Memorial Stadium as an opposition player this weekend.

The Burnley loanee now finds himself at Barnsley, who Barton’s side take on on Saturday. Thomas was recalled by Burnley mid-way through the January transfer window, and was revealed as a Barnsley player the day after.

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The 22-year-old has since gone on to to make seven starts for Barnsley, scoring once and getting two assists, as well as keeping two clean sheets in a seven-game unbeaten run. Rovers acted swiftly to replace Thomas, and Jarrell Quansah was brought in under a week later on a loan deal until the end of the season from Premier League giants Liverpool.

“Bobby did really well for us, said Barton. I can’t knock Bobby’s contribution. We’ve certainly missed him since he’s gone to Barnsley and I think he’s helped them.

“Losing him as late as we did in the window hurt us, but also on the other side of that we managed to get Jarell, for us if you would have offered either of them to me at the start of the season I would have taken Jarell.”

“As it was we couldn’t get access to him, Bob came in and did great and he decided to go to Barnsley. He’s made the best call, he’s gone there, we pretty much lost every game afterwards, and they picked up and went on. He’s got a right chance of getting promoted with Barnsley.”

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The centre-back was a mainstay  for Barton’s side, making 19 appearances and scoring an impressive three goals from defence. Since making the switch to Barnsley, he has been part of a side that is yet to be defeated with Thomas in the side, winning six of their seven games since.

It’s been a different tale for the Gas however, who picked up their first win in seven last time out against Oxford United - in a run of six losses from the seven games.

He said: “For him, it worked out well. We were disappointed to lose him because we felt a lot of the mistakes young players make he made in our team.

“Somebody was always going to benefit from that, we made it through the adversity with him. It’s natural to capitalise on that as it was, Michael Duff knows him from Burnley and has managed to take him up there.”

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Alongside Bobby Thomas is another familiar face making his return to the Memorial Stadium - his namesake Luke. The winger was brought in on loan last season, and played his part in the Gas’ promotion from League Two - with five assists in 28 games in blue and white.

Despite intentions to try and re-sign him in the summer, Thomas had made progress on his return to Oakwell, but suffered a cruel injury. He suffered a broken leg in training which sidelined him for four months. He is back and available for selection now, but has been eased back in with two substitute appearances.

Barton said: “LT had a really good year with us, albeit he didn’t show as much on the grass as he would have liked to. He was certainly well thought of within the group and I know made a lot of friends for the rest of his life here, he’s such a good kid.”

There will be a third reunion with Barnsley’s manager Michael Duff, who Barton won the Championship title with at Burnley. Both are coaching disciples of Sean Dyche, and have used a lot of what he teached at their own respective clubs. Duff won promotion with Cheltenham, and Barton did it with Rovers.

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Barton said: “It’ll be nice to see Duffo, he’s somebody who was in the team with us when we won the Championship, albeit he didn’t play as much as he would have liked to because the team were on a 23-game unbeaten run when we won the division, but he was a massive part of that.

“He did a phenomenal job at Cheltenham, and that gave him the opportunity at Barnsley. I think he’s done a brilliant job again, they’re a really good side, they’re really good at what they do and they make it very difficult for you as Derby found out at the weekend and we’ll have to be at our best to take maximum points.”

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