Bristol Rovers name their price for Aaron Collins after Championship transfer interest

Aaron Collins was crowned League One’s Player of the Year - and is now in demand
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Joey Barton says Bristol Rovers are in a position that they do not need to sell Aaron Collins but that admitted he is not irreplaceable.

The 2022/23 campaign has concluded and Collins is the story of the season after his breakout year in the third tier. Collins was crowned the Player of the Year in League One for his 16 goals and 11 assists in a side that finished below mid-table.

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Collins had never played in the third tier before but was one of the leading players in the division. He scored goals against league winners Plymouth and play-off hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday and has proven to be a bargain buy for a player that joined on a free transfer from Forest Green Rovers in the summer of 2021.

The off season is now here for Rovers, but one task this summer will be keeping hold of their prized asset. He is under contract until the summer of 2025, but there is interest from Stoke City, BristolWorld understands, and as well as another Championship club, who are in the play-offs.

“It’s going to depend on the fee,” said Barton when asked about his hopes of keeping his talisman.

“We’re in a great spot in terms of they’ll pay a premium for him. Scott Twine didn’t get Player of the Year in League One and didn’t score or assist as many goals as Aaron. He probably won’t get capped, he’s English isn’t he Scott Twine? He won’t get capped by England unless he’s struck by a lightning bolt.

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“Whereas Aaron in the near future could be a full international. If he signs for a bigger team than us, the likelihood is he is going to get an international cap. We took Aaron as a project really. He was a talented boy in League Two and a little bit lightweight.

He added: “I still think he’s got work to do. And somebody is going to get the benefit of that. He is coming into his prime now and unfortunately, we’re not a charity.

“They need to pay correctly if these clubs want him. I’m imagining there will be a deal to be struck. Wael certainly doesn’t need the money. We’re in a good position from that, we’ve got him contractually secure.

“He’s a great lad and if the price is right it’s going to be tough for us, but I’m hoping no one meets his asking price and Aaron comes back.”

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As for what kind of fee Rovers could command in the summer, he has doubled down on his valuation of what Burnley paid for Scott Twine last summer. It was reported as an undisclosed fee on both clubs’ website but the Burnley Express believed it to be in the region of £4m.

Twine scored 20 goals and got 13 assists for the Dons, getting six more goal contributions than Collins. He was part of a Dons side that missed out on automatic promotion and lost in the play-offs meanwhile Rovers finished eight points above the relegation zone.

When asked what any opening offer should be, Barton responded with: “Starting point? It has to be where Twine started. It will be a Championship club from what I’ve heard and it’ll depend on how the seasons finish. From what I’ve heard who is circling, whether they come through with an offer or not I’m not sure. From what I have heard there are a couple of teams that aren’t Championship teams next year.

"I’d look at it and Ipswich paid £1.6m for Kayden Jackson from Accrington Stanley. He wasn’t validated in League One. I don’t know what Peterborough paid for Clarke-Harris. Johnno with the greatest respect to him doesn’t have the athletic output of Aaron.

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Rovers’ last big sale was Jonson Clarke-Harris moving to Peterborough United for a fee of around £2m. Clarke-Harris went on to help the Posh to one promotion and later captained them, and finished the joint top scorer this season. Clarke-Harris netted 26 goals this term and got four assists, which tied him with Conor Chaplin.

He added: "Aaron is more appealing because of the scope he has to improve with the international stuff and he is getting better. I don’t know, but I’ll imagine the starting point is where Scott Twine started from and the fact that it’s not just me but the whole of the league has said he’s the best player in the league. In a better side, he’d have scored more goals and got more assists. Good problems, Dale Vince will be kicking himself letting him go on a free out of their place.

"We’ve got to find some more of them, some more free transfers who we can develop. At these levels, you can find them and they are out there. You won’t get every free transfer being an Aaron Collins. If you get your recruitment right and the loans right in this division you can certainly build a promotion-winning team."

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