Bristol Rovers January transfer window: What Joey Barton needs to address in New Year

The January transfer window will be of importance to Bristol Rovers
Bristol Rovers are always on the search for new players. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)Bristol Rovers are always on the search for new players. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
Bristol Rovers are always on the search for new players. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers shortly enter the final month of 2022, in what has been a year of improvement for the Gas. A year ago, they were statistically one of the worst teams out of the 92 teams in English football’s top four professional leagues.

Joey Barton changed the fortunes of the club by turning them from 17th in League Two on the first day of the New Year to a team that are currently 15th in League One. The objective of this season for Rovers will be to survive first and foremost and at the near half-way stage, they are on course to do that.

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As 2023 approaches, so does the January transfer window which will be an important time for Rovers to solidify their place in the division. There have been a few loose transfer reports, such as a move for goalkeeper Myles Roberts, who is currently on loan at Watford, Reports in October also linked York City centre-back Maxim Kouogun, a former teammate of James Belshaw, with a move to the Memorial Stadium.

The arrival of Scott Sinclair was outside of the transfer window but was a free agent at the time. His short-term deal expires in the New Year and there is a hope that he will extend his stay with the club that gave him his start in professional football. Sinclair’s arrival made it a harder task for Sylvester Jasper to get in the team and it was decided the winger would return to Fulham, over a lack of game time.

With Sinclair’s arrival and Jasper’s departure, when January opens, there will be three places available, should no one depart in the winter window.

Barton has already given the number of arrivals he wants when the window opens. In early November, he said: "I think if you do two or three in January, that’s about right. If you’re doing five or six, it says the first part of the season hasn’t quite gone to plan." The suggestion of signing two or three works well with sticking within the rules of a 22-man squad.

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Barton’s admission is that the club is ‘always in a recruitment phase’ and January will be a time that players become available, but is there a need for new arrivals? Here we take a look at what the priorities have to be for January.


Rovers fought off competition from Crystal Palace to sign Lewis Gordon, who before signing for the club, had played just 10 games of senior football. Gordon has been first choice since joining and has held on to his shirt.

In some games, the more experienced attackers have found a way to get round him and so, Rovers have had to make offence their best form of defence. The only competitor to left-back at the moment is Trevor Clarke, who in August was seemingly set for a departure.

Clarke and Gordon are similar in that both are quite attack-minded, whilst to be a better all-round player, there may need to be more emphasis on the defensive side of things.

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Signing a third left-back may mean that Clarke is moved on, but a left-back with more experience in the English game could be of benefit to Gordon. Several free agents are out there whilst there’s always the possibility of looking at those in League Two for example.


The centre of the park is Rovers’ best position arguably given that Sam Finley has become one of the most important players in the side, taking on the captain’s armband. Jordan Rossiter over time has developed into a key player too and has built up a good partnership alongside former Fleetwood Town teammate Finley in the centre.

Paul Coutts is to return and signed a one-year contract extension in the summer. He’s been out injured but has taken his role in the dugout alongside Barton, hoping to give advice to players to see out the game.

There needs to be some depth however in the centre given Josh Grant is out for the rest of the season, leaving player-coach Glenn Whelan as the only other defensive midfield option. Whelan has not featured in many match-day sides but has admitted he wants to continue playing having seemingly been set for retirement this summer.

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There is Antony Evans and Luke McCormick as centre midfield options, whilst Jerry Lawrence could be recalled and Zain Westbrooke is still on the books. If Westbrooke, whose future is unlikely to be at the Mem can be moved off however, then that could free up space to sign a defensive midfielder that can provide competition to the usual starting pair of Finley and Rossiter.

And as a last resort... (striker)

Touch wood, there will be no departures in the striker’s department. There are five options that Rovers has up front with Josh Coburn likely to be here for the season, whilst John Marquis and Ryan Loft are also there, as well as Harvey Saunders who is awaiting an opportunity.

Aaron Collins’ form however is sure to attract some attention from the clubs higher up the league or even in the Championship. He is one of the most creative players in the division and has really adapted to life in a division he’s not had much experience in. The new deal that he signed in August, which will keep him here until 2025 means that Rovers hold all the cards when it comes to the negotiating table.

Barton did admit that with the way several of his players had been playing that they would be tested, but it is hard to prepare for what might come in January. The aim for Rovers is to get to the Championship under Barton who is here until 2026 and whilst this season may be a consolidation campaign, keeping Collins will be key to any success.

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Should any club come in with an offer that is too hard to turn down however then it leaves them needing to replace him, but that is easier said than done. Collins can play in various roles, and has recently played a supporting role to the partnership of Coburn and Loft.

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