Bristol Rovers could sign long-time Joey Barton transfer target for free in summer

The Gas will soon have to start preparing for the summer - once their League One status is confirmed
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Bristol Rovers could have the chance to sign transfer target James Norwood in the summer with his future at Barnsley still uncertain.

Norwood signed a one-year deal with Barnsley, and has got eight goals in 31 appearances for Michael Duff's side this season. He has been in form as of late with an assist against Plymouth Argyle and a goal against Portsmouth, which has prompted talk about a new contract.

Barnsley however are not thinking straight away about contract renewals and are firmly focused on the task in hand which is to achieve promotion at the first time of asking after their relegation. The Yorkshire side are fourth in League One, and are eight points off the automatics with two games in hand.

"There are conversations [with the club] that are down the line," said Duff to the Yorkshire Post. We are in the middle of a big, tough run of games. We've had negotiations, but I don't get involved in that side of it.

"We'll have a recruitment meeting and it will be: 'Do you want to keep him?' Yes or no.' That will be my input and then it's up to the club and the agents and the player to thrash all those bits out. They are not conversations I've had [yet].

"He might not want to stay. Has he done well for us? Absolutely."

Norwood was linked with a move to the Memorial Stadium last summer but the Gas opted against signing the 32-year-old, who later joined the promotion-chasing Tykes. He was available on a free transfer following his release from Ipswich Town, and signed a short-term deal at Oakwell.

According to the Bristol Post, Rovers were in a good position to sign Norwood, given his links to both Joey Barton and Andy Mangan, but the former decided against signing him. Rovers instead signed John Marquis, who is under contract until the summer of 2024.

A move could be revisited in the summer however depending on their striker situation, with Josh Coburn to return to Middlesbrough once his loan deal concludes. Coburn has scored nine goals in 25 matches during his loan from Boro, but a return to the Mem next season could only be likely if Michael Carrick guides the Teesside club to promotion.

Marquis has led the line well for Rovers in recent weeks, with a brace against Forest Green Rovers a reward for his string of good performances. The 30-year-old had kept Coburn out recently but in the last two matches, the pair have played alongside each other up top.

Ryan Loft is also another option, but he has not scored a league goal since netting in the draw against Exeter City in October. Loft has had spells out with injury as well as suspension.

Aaron Collins is another forward option, but he has played in various positions across the front line, with left-wing being where he has been the most impact this season. Collins - who missed out on a Wales call-up this week, has scored seven goals and got six assists from the wing, but has also netted seven as a central forward.