Bristol Rovers transfer state-of-play: What is left for Joey Barton to solve?
What’s left for Joey Barton to do in the January transfer window at Bristol Rovers?
The January transfer window is approaching its closing stages with just a week to go for Bristol Rovers to do more business.
Up until last Thursday and Friday, the Gas had yet to make a signing but then two came in as many days with Ellery Balcombe and Jarell Quansah joining on loan for the rest of the season. Balcombe joined from Brentford and will provide competition for James Belshaw, meanwhile Quansah moves from Liverpool for his first taste of senior football.
Joey Barton spoke about potentially signing six players in this window, as that could be the difference between them maintaining their play-off push in League One or just being mid-table, which wouldn’t necessarily be bad given they had only just been promoted.
With seven days left for clubs to sign new players and also move on the players they don’t want, we analyse how the window has gone so far for Rovers.
It looks unlikely that Aaron Collins will depart the Memorial Stadium this transfer window with surprisingly a lack of talk about him leaving. Collins is the joint-top scorer with 13 goals and is top of the assists chart in League One. He could be seen as the Player of the Year for the division for his goal contributions in a side that is pushing for a second consecutive promotion.
Portsmouth had been linked with the Welshman last summer, but he ended up signing a new contract until the summer of 2025. Barton’s valuation of £5m and Collins’ long-term deal could act as a deterrent for potential interested parties but the fact that not even a lower-half Championship team has been linked with a move is baffling. Rovers will not complain however as they have been hurt before by letting their best player leave late into the window.
Scott Sinclair was the first bit of business done in the window with the 33-year-old signing an 18-month extension. He had transfer interest in him but opted to remain at the club that offered him a route back into football after his release from Preston. Sinclair in recent matches has been played at wing-back, which is a role he’s getting used to.
The arrival of Jarell Quansah is one of excitement given how highly-rated he is by those involved with Liverpool. Quansah won the UEFA Under-19 Championships with England last summer and is arguably a better player than Bobby Thomas, though the latter does have more experience in football. Quansah comes from Liverpool where there is an emphasis through good football and that is what Barton is trying to achieve.
The signing of Ellery Balcombe has confused a few Rovers supporters whilst others have seen the clearer picture. Belshaw has been Barton’s first-choice for most of his tenure and in League Two did not put a foot wrong. In the aftermath of the 4-3 defeat to Exeter City however, Barton said that no one’s place in the backline was safe and the club needed to keep moving. We shouldn’t expect to see Belshaw dropped straight away and he will have time to hold on to his position, but the arrival of Balcombe means real competition now with Anssi Jaakkola continuing the transition to coaching.
It’s good news on the outgoings also as whilst it was sad for Alfie Kilgour to depart after a 17-year association with the club, both parties ended up getting a good deal. Rovers have received a fee for their player, meanwhile Kilgour can reinvent himself at a new club, whilst reuniting with a familiar face in Ollie Clarke.
Trevor Clarke has been loaned out to his former club Shamrock Rovers which will at least see his wages covered, and if all goes to plan the League of Ireland club could explore the option to sign him or it could put him in the shop window for League Two clubs. Newport County is thought to have been a potential destination for him before his move to Rovers, and so Mike Flynn could come back in for him at Walsall.
A left-back is perhaps the next target for Barton to recruit as Lewis Gordon is still getting to grips with senior football. Gordon had only played a handful of matches for Brentford and non-league St Albans City before joining Rovers. Gordon has conducted himself well but a full-back is a must to provide him cover. Harry Anderson can play in the role but is more of a winger and hasn’t consistently been available because of injury problems.
As mentioned, the signing of Quansah on paper is a better one than when Bobby Thomas arrived given he is coming from a top English club, where he is highly thought of. Thomas’ move to Barnsley does leave a gap however as see, Luca Hoole and James Gibbons had to fill in at centre-back.
Hoole started the season as a centre-back with Barton seeing his long-term plans in that position but the Wales Under-21 defender has rediscovered his form as a right-back. It would be beneficial to recruit another centre-back or two to provide cover. A slightly more experienced defender would be the best option but that would likely mean dipping into the free agent market and taking a gamble on a player that may have not been fancied elsewhere. Angus MacDonald was linked with a move earlier in the window with Swindon Town open to offers and he is someone that could fit the bill.
There was interest reported in Hibernian midfielder Jake Doyle-Hayes but he’s likely to remain in Edinburgh. He rejected an offer from Forest Green Rovers, and that’s perhaps a signal that he’s happy to stay at Easter Road. A new defensive centre-midfielder could be an option to provide cover for Jordan Rossiter and Sam Finley.
Luke McCormick has not yet found the form he had during his first spell at the club but he is a slightly more attack minded player. Any player however that comes as back–up to Finley or Rossiter will not want to sit on the bench, but given the nature of the role, opportunities could come through injuries.