Five of the best Bristol Rovers signings from the January transfer window - including influential captain
January has been a quiet month for Bristol Rovers in recent years but there have been times where they’ve struck gold in a notoriously hard month
The January transfer window is known for being notoriously difficult to conduct business in and on many occasions Bristol Rovers have been burnt by it.
Cast your minds back to January 2016 and you can still remember the Deadline Day sale of Matt Taylor to arch rivals Bristol City.
There was also last season where the club failed to make any worthwhile signings and as a result the squad was not equipped enough to remain in League One and relegated.
Already the Gas have improved on their performance in the window a year later by the signing of Scunthorpe United striker Ryan Loft.
Loft was a rumoured target on New Year’s Day and just three days later was revealed as a new player.
Time will tell on whether he’ll be a success but there is a hope that he can go and deliver what Rovers needed which was a traditional number nine to spearhead a promotion push.
So without further ado, let’s look at a set of players who turned out to be a valuable addition after making a mid-season move to the Memorial Stadium.
John Ward’s first permanent signing in charge of his second spell as Rovers manager was Mark McChrystal who joined the club on a short-term deal from Tranmere Rovers. They were bottom of the league at the time and they needed some reinforcements to help with their survival push and McChrystal turned out to be a key figure in that.
He played a part in the team which recorded a 14th placed finish when it all looked doom and gloom in the 2012/13 eason. Unfortunately the club suffered back-to-back relegation’s but through thick and thin, the Derry-born defender stayed with the club and he was named captain by Darrell Clarke during their maiden spell in the National League and even played between the sticks in a draw with Wrexham.
His loyalty would be rewarded as Rovers were promoted at Wembley, beating Grimsby on penalties. Unfortunately he was limited to just a few appearances in the season Rovers won back-to-back promotions but had a new contract due to his influence with the first-team squad.
He was allowed to leave the club in March 2017 and later joined NIFL Premiership side Crusaders before returning to his hometown team Derry City where he is now a player-coach at 37-years-old.
Signed from Coventry City for an undisclosed fee in February 2019, he is the last prolific striker the team has really had.
After a number of false dawns at clubs where he failed to nail down a first-team place it was Rovers who offered him a new home. Director of football Tommy Widdrington played a big part in bringing him to Bristol after the pair previously worked together at former club Coventry City. The Sky Blues were happy to part with the striker but after letting him go, he went on to make a positive impact with Rovers, scoring 11 goals in 16 appearances. His highlights of the first six months at the club was earning Player of the Month for the division as well as earning the clubs goal of the season for his delightful strike against Gillingham.
Clarke-Harris would go on to continue his good form and won Player of the Month in September 2019 after netting five goals in five matches. He would make further appearances and played 32 times, scoring 16 goals whilst going through a managerial transition from Graham Coughlan to Ben Garner.
Unfortunately Clarke-Harris wouldn't remain at the club for a third season as he decided not to renew his contract with a year remaining. His former club Peterborough came in for him and signed him on a four-year deal which played a part in last season's relegation after the Gas failed to replace him. Clarke-Harris excelled with his new club and ended up as the top scorer for the division, scoring 31 goals in 45 appearances.
He joined Rovers on loan from Stoke City until the end of the season in need of some first-team minutes after leaving AFC Wimbledon for a place with the Potters.
Making his debut in a baptism of fire, he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Swindon Town in which he almost opened his account but was denied by a goal line clearance.
His time at Rovers saw him play 16 times and the club earned a 10th placed finish, the highest recorded in recent years. Both Sweeney and Rovers enjoyed the loan so much he rejoined in the summer to work with Darrell Clarke once more for a second consecutive loan spell.
He made over 43 appearances for the club and later played under another former Gas boss in Graham Coughlan at Mansfield Town.
The experienced keeper signed on loan from Millwall back in December 2012, making his debut on New Years Day which was a 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle. He made such an impression he played all of their remaining games, keeping seven clean sheets as the club avoided relegation.
He performed so well that the club opted to sign him on a permanent basis after his contract had expired with Millwall and he would go on to make more than 125 appearances for the club. Mildenhall was displaced between the sticks four years later but remained at the club to become goalkeeper coach.
Mildenhall is now the goalkeeping coach at Swindon Town, who are managed by Ben Garner.
Joining from Coventry City, two days prior to the arrival of Jonson Clarke-Harris who came from the same club, midfielder Ogogo is a player which made a quick impact when joining towards the end of the window in 2019.
He may have only made just over 50 appearances for Rovers but he quickly earned fan-favourite status for his tireless displays in the centre of the midfield. Ogogo would go from box to box, commanding his area whilst sometimes chipping in with some important goals.
A change of managers in quick succession however meant Ogogo's role at the club would change. He wasn't to be included in Ben Garner's plans and he wasn't even given a shirt number for the 2020/21 season and instead had to drop down to the National League to play for Dagenham & Redbridge, where he was quickly made captain. A return to the Mem came in January when Paul Tisdale was appointed manager and he made three appearances but after Tisdale left and Barton came in, he suffered a cruel injury and his contract was not renewed.
He is now playing for Southend United, who are struggling to adapt to life in the non-league after their relegation from League Two last season.