Joey Barton’s Christmas wish list as contract situation needs addressing

There are a few things that we will want to see from Rovers in the New Year. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)There are a few things that we will want to see from Rovers in the New Year. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
There are a few things that we will want to see from Rovers in the New Year. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Bristol Rovers fans have a few things on their mind ahead of Christmas Day and it’s not their dinner, it’s instead the future of some of their key players!

Christmas is just around the corner but unfortunately for Bristol Rovers, they won’t be celebrating it with a Boxing Day match.

Their game with Sutton United was postponed as a result of a number of positive COVID-19 cases, making for a second postponement in a row. Despite not a game to look forward to one day removed from the big day, there is still a lot to be hopeful for.

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As many Gas fans wake up on the big day opening what they hope to be perhaps a new shirt or a signed photo of their favourite Gas player from the present or yesteryear, there are other presents in mind.

We discuss what may be on the mind of a Rovers fan and Joey Barton’s Christmas wish list heading into the new year.

Summer signing Antony Evans is Bristol Rovers’ player of the season so far. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Summer signing Antony Evans is Bristol Rovers’ player of the season so far. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Summer signing Antony Evans is Bristol Rovers’ player of the season so far. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images) | Getty Images

A new contract for Antony Evans

According to WhoScored.com, Evans is Rovers’ highest ranking player this season and is the only representative in the team of the season. He has a goal contribution of nine, so it is clear he’s a pivotal player to the side.

Evans has had such an influence in this team and the fact he could be allowed to go on a free in the summer is something of a concern.

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In a time of uncertainty and where the pursestrings need to be tightened as a result of the pandemic, you’d perhaps rather recoup a fee than let a player go for nothing.

It would mean a blow to Rovers’ season as Evans has performed so well but a new contract shouldn’t be out of the reckoning.

If the team as a whole can improve their form then the 23-year-old may be inclined to extend his stay at the club.

So far in his career, there have been numerous loan spells but not really a club that he can call home. At Rovers he has made the most league appearances, so it’s the early stages of settling in.

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His ability is obvious and he may choose to leave but if there’s any money in January, the number one priority should be getting him to sign a new deal.

A new number nine

With Brett Pitman and Leon Clarke at the club, it may be a bit greedy to want another striker at the club.

The pair however have had their difficulties with both going through some injury troubles with Clarke still sidelined.

As a result of their absence, we’ve seen the likes of Antony Evans and Sam Nicholson, who aren’t strikers by trade, line up top.

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Earlier in the month, I said perhaps the form of Aaron Collins might persuade the club to change their stance in January. The feedback received however was that a new striker would still be needed, given the duration of the season.

One player who people liked the look of was Jake Beesley from Rochdale. He scored a brace against Rovers in the dramatic 4-2 win.

Beesley is seventh in the top scorer charts in League Two and is just 25-years-old so getting a player like him will be hard, so that one is a non-starter.

The common theme we’ve seen in Joey Barton’s tenure is that he’s gone for experienced players who have done it, rather than some lower league gems.

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Perhaps it may be worth dipping into the non-league to see if there are any strikers out there who could join for a reasonable fee.

Players like Josh Grant have had to adapt to a new role.  (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Players like Josh Grant have had to adapt to a new role.  (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Players like Josh Grant have had to adapt to a new role. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Search for new full-backs

A few times we’ve seen defensive midfielder Josh Grant have to deputise at right wing-back this season.

There’s been a 3-5-2 formation in which Grant has been part of a back three, as well as a 4-3-3 where he’s been a bit more forward going.

Grant has filled that role well and is currently out injured at the moment but surely new full-backs will be needed in January.

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There have a number of players who have had to fill in the roles of defenders who have been out with injuries. Alfie Kilgour for example is out until at least February, whilst we are still yet to see Junior Brown.

In the absence of Grant, we saw Harry Anderson play in that role and perhaps as a winger, that is where he’d be best suited.

It’s always that discussion whether players are happy just to be playing or whether they want to play in their more preferred role.

Defensive reinforcements though will be needed in January but given there needs to be an emphasis elsewhere in the team, the cheque book shouldn’t need to come out.

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Look at the success of Connor Taylor who is honing his craft on loan from Stoke City. He’s become a popular player and even won the EFL Young Player of the month. If possible, perhaps dipping into the loan market could pay off, saving the club a bit of money.

Alternatively money could be saved completely and instead players like Luca Hoole and Ryan Jones could be given more of a chance in the first-team.

Promotion-winning form

Ultimately the end goal for this season is to return to League One after relegation last season. In the eyes of Barton, this isn’t a season of consolidation and instead this should be one in which they win promotion.

As we are at the half-way point of the season now, this is a chance to put together a good run of form. There has been some inconsistency in the team, failing to put games to bed like Barrow and Salford where they’ve had a man advantage.

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As we move into the final 23 games of the season, there needs to be a bit more of a clinical edge in the team to see out games and not let them fall out of their grasp. There’s an interesting statistic that Rovers have the same amount of wins as they do red cards, so now it’s time to stop the discipline issues and put a string of wins together.

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