Bristol Rovers midfielder clarifies celebration, Accrington admiration and Joey Barton comparison

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Finley’s scored against Bristol Rovers for Accrington Stanley but now he’ll want to do that for his new club

Sam Finley has said that Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton has told him he reminds him of himself as a player.

Barton has been joining in several training sessions this week to bolster the numbers of a relatively small squad with injuries and suspensions reaking havoc on his team selection.

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Before hanging up his boots in 2017, Barton had a 15-year playing career, featuring for the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle United, Marseille and Burnley.

The 40-year-old like Finley was a midfielder and was always keen to focus on how he could influence his own teammates through his individual performance.

From the experience of training with him in Almondsbury, the pair discussed the similarities between their playing style.

He said: “We were speaking about it today, he has been joining in the past few training sessions. He said that to me numerous times, ‘you remind me so much of myself’ and he sometimes lets other people’s decisions affect the way you play.

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“They make their own decision and it affects you which shows to me as a person. I like to see everyone do well and not that I am one to moan, scream or shout at but if they make their own decisions I try and rectify that wrong decision by winning back the ball or make a tackle. I’ve had loads of conversations about that, maybe I wasn’t as good as him at the top level but he sees a little bit of him self in me which is good.

With the emphasis being on attack, Finley will at times be trusted to be that midfield enforcer in the centre of the park.

In the absence of Jordan Rossiter and with Paul Coutts on the bench last week, he was expected to provide the defence with some cover.

It allowed Antony Evans and the mercurial Luke McCormick to roam forward and to cause problems, whilst he could guard the likes of Lewis Gordon and Luca Hoole.

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As for his best position, Finley said: “I had a conversation with the gaffer last week about that. He said maybe going forward it might be more of a role for me because he thinks I can do both sides of it.

“I can defend and track back and win back the ball. I can also pass forward, break lines with passes and get your Antony Evans and Aaron Collins on the ball further forward.

“It’s the gaffers decision, it’s what he gets paid to do. I’ll just go and give it my all as always.”

The midfielder has seen similarities already with their current campaign to their last, with the team struggling with injuries, which resulted in a drop off of form.

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Rovers were 17th before the New Year and did not have a good home form to fall back on until they started to win again in December.

Players have been in and out of the side and there hasn’t been an opportunity yet for the manager to choose his strongest eleven.

But once they can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, one of Barton’s trusted midfielders, Finley, believes that things can change for the better.

He said: “It’s just gelling as a side, the gaffer has probably come and said about injuries and once he gets everyone back fit.

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“It was very similar to last season to be honest, we picked up a load of niggles and couldn’t get a good run of form going up until Christmas. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long this year as it’s a bit more punishing this league than it is from League Two.

“You can’t afford to take that long to get going but it’s just as a side gelling, with the gaffer putting his strongest eleven out that he thinks with everyone fit. Once he does that the fans and everyone around that can see how good we can be.”

Finley has the experience of scoring against Rovers for Saturday’s visitors Accrington, following a two-year spell there.

In the last match between the two sides that permitted spectators before the pandemic, the two played to a six-goal thriller.

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Alex Rodman gave Rovers the lead but Jordan Clark got them back on level terms before Finley turned the game on its head a minute later.

He had scored in front of the home fans who would later go on to be the adoring fan base he plays for now and could be seen shushing in his celebration.

His celebration however was not at the home crowd and was instead at one of his own teams coaching members, he clarifies.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s always a good game against Accrington. It’ll be similar to when we played them at Fleetwood,” he said.

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“Two Scouse managers, there’s always a bit of a rivalry and a little bit of bragging rights, so hopefully we come out with the bragging rights.

“I got a little bit of stick off of the fans because I celebrated. It looks like I was shushing the crowd but I was shushing Jimmy Bell on the bench because he was on me to score more goals at the time.

“He was saying you need to get in the box more and need to be higher up the pitch and scoring more goals. I remember getting a few tweets but they got the wrong end of the stick on that.”

Accrington are a team that continue to punch above their weight and have held their position in the third tier for four seasons now, currently occupying the 18th spot

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A town of only just over 35,000 and dwarfed by the likes of Blackburn, Burnley and Preston, as well as Manchester nearby, the club have a small catchment area, resulting in one of the lowest attendances in the division. This results in a smaller pool of resources with much to thank for British businessman Andy Holt.

Their manager John Coleman, who Finley would have worked under for a couple of seasons, has leaped praise on today’s opponents and the work the manager does year-on-year.

“I don’t think it gets spoke about enough to be fair what Coley (John Coleman) and Jimmy Bell do at that football club,” he said.

“It’s unbelievable being there from the inside. Budget wise and the players he signs from the non-league, the gems that he ends up selling on. You only have to look at the players that have signed on and played higher along with the revenue that he creates for the football club from plucking these gems from non-league and kicking them on.

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So what should Rovers expect from them? “You always know what you’re gonna get from an Accrington side, I worked under them,” he said. They’re going to be in your face, rough and ready and you know that you are in a fight with them.

“It’s one thing you know about them, they’ll never lie down, they’ll always be in there with a fight. I’m looking forward to it on Saturday because that’s the style of play I like to play with as well and so it should be interesting.”

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