Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton reveals plans for highly-rated Crystal Palace loanee
The Gas manager says he plans to use the Wales Under-21 midfielder to his disposal despite a lesser role in the squad so far
Spence has struggled to make his mark in the first team yet this season due to the nature of the competition in the side, competing with the likes of Antony Evans, whilst the recent signings of Elliot Anderson and Jon Nolan may have pushed him further down the pecking order.
The 21 year old has made just six appearances this season, starting just once which was in a 2-2 draw against promotion contenders Tranmere Rovers back in November. In total he has played just 372 minutes of action in the blue and white quarters.
He has scored winners against Walsall in the league as well as a dramatic winner against Oxford United, but those moments have been too few and far between.
Barton has said he understands Spence’s possible frustration in the lack of minutes but he has not lost trust in the midfielder and opportunities are still there for him.
He said: “I know I can turn to him to produce, he’s popped up with goals but the problem he’s got is there’s huge competition for places.”
“He will definitely play minutes between now and the end of the season and it will be up to him whether it’s from the start or from the bench and I think his performances will show that.”
Former Wales captain Craig Bellamy spoke recently about Spence was the most talented player he had coached whilst in charge of the academy sides at his former club Cardiff City.
Spence had been sent out on loan to Barry Town United who play in the Cymru Premier, the top flight of Welsh football for his first loan move and he excelled for them but his second move away hasn’t seen him given as much game time.
Concerns could have possibly been raised from the parent club after a lack of game time for the Welshman but Barton has confirmed that nothing has been said from Crystal Palace and has said he thinks “they know.”
“Usually if it’s a player they think should play every week, they will put a caveat in the deal.
“It’s not the case that every single week you’re going to play younger players, they have to take the shirt and not relinquish it.
“At this moment in time we got some young players who have done that and we have got others who are still trying to put a marker down and show what they can do on a first team scale.”
Spence joined the club this summer on a season long loan having been with the Crystal Palace Under 23’s after joining from Cardiff City after his release from the Welsh side. The attacking midfielder impressed last season for the Eagles after registering seven goals and four assists in 15 appearances in the Premier League 2.
With Spence knowing he will play minutes between now and the end of the season, he will have to take his chances in order to get his breakthrough into the first team.