Bristol Rovers in competition with five other clubs for Accrington Stanley midfielder

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The Gas have been linked with their first player for the 2022/23 League One season

Bristol Rovers are in competition with a host of clubs for the signature of out-of-contract Accrington Stanley midfielder Matt Butcher.

Butcher is the first player to be linked with a move to the Gas following their promotion to League One after the curtain came down on their campaign a few weeks back.

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Rovers are on the search for players to add something to their squad as they begin their first season back in English football’s third tier.

As well as some contract negotiations to sort out such as Antony Evans, Glenn Whelan and Sam Nicholson, transfer targets are also being sought.

A report by NationalWorld website The News, says that Bradford City, Bristol Rovers and Fleetwood Town have joined Portsmouth in interest from the Football League clubs.

Both Scottish Premiership sides Motherwell and St Mirren are reportedly interested as well in a race that is hotting up with each side having to prove they are next best club.

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It was decided a fortnight ago that Butcher would be leaving the Wham Stadium after turning down their offer of an extended deal.

"Matt has been a good servant," manager John Coleman told the club website. "We did offer him a new contract but have been unable to offer him an improved contract, so he is now a free agent."

The 24-year-old has been at Accrington Stanley for the past two seasons and has been a regular feature in their midfield, starting 30 league matches this season, whilst also coming on as a substitute three times.

Over the last two years he has made 84 appearances for the Lancashire side, earning eight assists and six goals. He can play as an out-and-out central midfielder or can also cover as a defensive midfielder, which would be of help to Rovers.

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Butcher was part of AFC Bournemouth’s academy and was there from 2010 to 2020, with non-league loans at Gosport Borough, Poole Town and Woking.

He also had a stint at Yeovil Town in League Two back in 2017, as well as St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership in 2020. With at least two seasons at League One level, Butcher could act as a good option going forward given he is just 25 games shy of a century of matches in the division.

As mentioned, Whelan is out of contract at the end of the season but Joey Barton did state his intent for the Republic of Ireland international to stay.

Similar to Paul Coutts, who had a one-year extension clause activated in his contract, the midfielder will have to discuss with his family over whether to extend his stay at the Memorial Stadium.

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Asked on the day of Rovers’ 7-0 win over Scunthorpe United, Barton said: "To see him play like that today, I want him to play on next season but you’d have to ask his missus about that.”

The 38-year-old holds a coaching role at the club and commutes from Cheshire to games and training.

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