Bristol Rovers defensive crisis addressed as Paul Coutts urges patience for new signings

The 34-year-old is the second most senior player in the squad and holds an important role at the Memorial Stadium

Club captain Paul Coutts has called for patience after another summer of change at Bristol Rovers to best equip themselves at a higher level.

The Gas have made ten additions this summer including the returns of James Connolly and Luke McCormick, but some are still settling in and getting their fitness levels up to the required standard.

After releasing 13 players and also seeing the likes of Connor Taylor, Elliot Anderson and Luke Thomas return to their parent clubs, Joey Barton has had to take to the transfer market again.

The 40-year-old was able to beef the squad up with the likes of experienced players like John Marquis and Jordan Rossiter, but a chunk of their business remained on young players with a point to prove.

Rovers are on a five match winless run in League One, placing them in 18th in the current standings but one of Barton’s trusted lieutenants believes the club can put improve things.

“We have had a big turnover of players again,” said the former Derby midfielder to Bristol Rovers’ official channels.

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“We’re a slightly different side to what we were last season.

“We’re still bedding in, but as soon as we can get on a winning run and get a good home run the better, that will breed confidence throughout the new group.

“We have got good leadership in the group and hopefully we can rely on that on Saturday because there are going to be some young boys out there.

“We’re a bit fragmented at the back of the team so hopefully we’ll have enough leadership to get through that.”

The Gas have been limited to choosing one centre-half this weekend after Alfie Kilgour’s red card against Ipswich Town was overturned.

On-loan Burnley centre-bck Bobby Thomas was shown two successive yellow cards which Rovers aren’t able to appeal given how he he was sent off.

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Barton remains unable to call upon Connolly and Lewis Gibson who is being borrowed by Everton, who would have been his first-choice centre halves

Coutts believes they will find an appropriate solution to their current defensive crisis which was made easier by the news of Kilgour’s ban being erased.

“We’ll have to find solutions as a group,” admitted the captain. That is why we have got the squad that we have got. It’s one of those random nights where both centre halves get sent off late in the game.

“They are probably the only two fit ones in the building. It’s going to be a headache for the gaffer but one we’ve got plenty of depth in the squad that we will find a solution to it and put a team out willing to put everything on the line and get three points.

“It’ll be a tough game, they are all tough games.”

Coutts played under Joey Barton at Fleetwood, and was brought into the club after Rovers’ relegation to League Two and was then made captain.

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His leadership qualities has shown with the midfield general ushering a number of players through matches whilst also putting in a commanding performance.

Asked what it means to be the skipper, he responded: “It’s a huge honour, whether you’re playing or not playing, whoever leads the boys out on that Saturday in front of the crowd at the Mem, it is a fantastic honour.

“For me personally, it’s one of them things you hope for 11 captains on the pitch, it don’t really matter who is wearing the armband.”

The 34-year-old was suspended for the first three matches of the season, after picking up a red card in the aftermath of the Gas’ thrilling 4-3 victory over Rochdale in the second to last game of last season, picking up a four match ban.

Scotland-born Coutts was part of the pre-season preparations but had to step aside to allow those who would be available towards the latter stages of their preparations.

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As a result, his pre-season was extended and he has had to combat not playing games whilst his teammates have which will have come at a detriment to his match fitness.

For several weeks, he either started the match and was substituted after the hour mark or came on as a substitute to sure things up in the centre of the park.

After getting up to speed with League One again, the eight-time Scotland Under-21 international is now happy to where he is at for fitness.

He said: ““It will be nice to be back at the Mem, hopefully we can get a win and get a little run together. It was a long pre-season, you have to serve your bans when you get them unfortunately.”

“It took a bit of time to get past, there were no Saturday-Tuesday straight away. It is what it is, I’m up and running now and fighting for a jersey.

“The gaffer has to prepare a team to start the season. Not being available you’re not really in the running for that.

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“Getting minutes pre-season here and there, I played in the Chippenham game but the focus turns to the start of the season. You just have to wait your time, I’m up and running and feeling good.”