Bristol Rovers boss on the likelihood of loan stars returning next year after Newcastle, Cardiff & Stoke stars shine

Joey Barton has discussed the importance of having a good relationship with other clubs when it comes to signing players.

<p>Bristol Rovers have had some major success with loan players this season. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)</p>

Bristol Rovers have had some major success with loan players this season. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Joey Barton has emphasised the importance of building relationships with clubs higher up the football pyramid in order to develop and benefit all parties.

Connor Taylor, James Connolly and Elliot Anderson, all under the age of 21-years-old, have excelled on loan for the Gas this season, becoming key members of a youthful team.

Anderson, who joined from Newcastle United, has become the talk of League Two and was signed off the back of a recommendation from Steve Harper and Shola Ameobi.

Taylor meanwhile has been at the club since the start of the season from Stoke City, and he has built up a formidable centre-back partnership with James Connolly, who joined from Cardiff City in January.

As the season enters its final two months, there have been a demand for Rovers to put themselves in a position to take their loan stars back next season.

The Bristol Rovers boss discussed his goals when taking younger players on loan, outlining his desire to ‘work with the best talent’ the game has to offer.

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“I don’t know,” Barton said when asked whether his relationship with Newcastle United enabled Rovers to land Elliot Anderson on loan.

“As a manager, it is relationships. We’ve got a fantastic relationship with Stoke City because of the work we’ve done with some of their players in the past and that opens the pathway to get access to Connor Taylor this season.

Elliot Anderson of Bristol Rovers celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the Sky Bet League Two match between Bristol Rovers and Colchester United (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

“As a club, we want to build relationships with all the top clubs because they have the ability to stockpile some of the best talent in the country, if not in Europe and the world.

“We’d be fools not to want to work with those guys, but you’ve also got to do a good job. You’ve got to send the players back developing in the manner they want their play to develop.”

“For us, getting a good reputation for developing younger players is key for me as a young coach. I want to work with the best talent in the world and to do that you’ve got to show during your apprenticeship that at every junction you get your hands on them, you develop them and they enjoy working for you and their game comes on leaps and bounds.”

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Barton, who took charge of the Gas in February 2021, went on to discuss how the ‘desire’ and ‘hunger’ of Anderson will help him to develop as a player while on loan at the club.

“I think across the board in my tenure as a manager, we’ve given opportunities to younger players and we’ve been rewarded because they have been excellent when those opportunities have presented themselves,” he added.

“For me, as I’ve said lots of times, age is just a number. It’s about desire, it’s about hunger and we’ve been really lucky with some of the boys we’ve got because lads who I’ve worked with, the Newcastle lads in Steve Harper and Shola [Ameobi]. I’ve spent time with them in a dressing room as a player and they know my character. They know which players will work with me and which players maybe won’t.

“At this moment in time, he’s been superb, Elliot, and I think Newcastle will be really pleased with his development and we’ve got to continue that between now and the end of the season.”

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As well as praise reserved for some of his youngsters, there were words of motivation for Taylor, who is on loan from Stoke City.

The 21-year-old was told to improve in the attacking six-yard box to attack headers better as that could add more points on the board and develop him as a player.

“Once Connor Taylor learns to direct those headers on target, I think we’ll be alright. He’s had so many good chances over the season,” he said.

“He really could be sitting with five or six goals and I think that is the next part of his development, putting the ball in the back of the net, because I think if you carry that threat as a defensive player it can be a huge benefit for the team.”

As well as Taylor, Connolly and Anderson, there is also Luke Thomas and Sion Spence on loan at the club, though the latter two have been unable to stamp their authority on the squad and have instead been used on a sparingly basis.

Bristol Rovers currently sit seventh in League Two, one point behind Swindon Town, and have nine games remaining as they occupy the last play-off spot.