Hibernian lowdown on Bristol Rovers transfer target injured in training by ex-Bristol City boss

Hibs journalist Patrick McPartlin gives the lowdown on Bristol Rovers transfer target
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It was like London buses for Bristol Rovers fans after nearly three weeks of waiting, they were treated to two new arrivals with Ellery Balcombe and Jarell Quansah both joining on loan until the end of the season.

Balcombe was first through the door, joining from Brentford after his loan at Crawley Town was brought to an end to make the move go through. The England Under-20 international will compete with James Belshaw for that starting berth.

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Joey Barton's prayers were then answered when the search for a new centre-back resulted in the signing of Quansah, who Barton had watched the week prior. Quansah's arrival was much-anticipated given how he had trained with Liverpool's first-team, and was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Darwin Nunez and Mo Salah.

There is potential for four more arrivals to come with Barton eyeing a total of six signings to maintain their push for a play-off spot. In the last week the Gas have been linked with a move with Jake Doyle-Hayes from Hibernian. Doyle-Hayes has been in Scotland for the last two-and-a-half-years, choosing to join the Edinburgh club after being released by Aston Villa.

The 24-year-old rejected a move to Forest Green Rovers early in the transfer window, but could a move away from Easter Road still happen? We speak to Edinburgh Evening News' Hibernian writer Patrick McPartlin to get the full picture of Doyle-Hayes.

What kind of midfielder is Jake Doyle-Hayes?

He's ostensibly a box-to-box midfielder although he has mostly been played as a six by Hibs (under three different permanent managers and one caretaker manager). His idol is Roy Keane but he said on signing for Hibs that he enjoys 'both sides of the game... I enjoy digging in and defending and helping the back four, but I also like chipping in with a few assists and maybe a couple of goals if I'm lucky'. Has 14 yellow cards so he's a bit of a spoiler, but he's not a typical midfield destroyer.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

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He's a nice passer of the ball but doesn't often take risks. He'll often play the safe pass which can slow down attacks or counter-attacks. Lee Johnson is keen for him to work more on getting forward and playing forward more, which tells its own story in terms of what the coaching staff think he needs to work on. As mentioned most of his games for Hibs have come as a defensive mid but he only has two goals (in the same game) and one assist (against a team two divisions below in a League Cup match) in 54 games and I think that's something he needs to improve. Both his goals were impressive - you can see them here and here - and his assist is here, but I think the feeling is that he needs to add more goal contributions to his game, which the coaching staff are working on.

Doyle-Hayes was out for several months with a bizarre training ground injury with former Bristol City manager Lee Johnson, can you explain more?

Jake had a fragment of loose bone in his ankle that was giving him a bit of grief. During a training session, Johnson tackled him as he went to shoot.

In Johnson's words: "He had a fragment of bone loose in his ankle that was agitating him a lot and then I slid in during training and he crumpled his foot a little bit as he went to shoot and it aggravated that bone, dislodged it a bit more, so he had it removed [in an operation] but had a bit of a setback."

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He's never played in League One before, but did play in League Two in England. If Doyle-Hayes was to return, what will he have learned from his time in Scotland?

He's been coming up against the likes of Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, and Rangers regularly - for St Mirren and Hibs - so facing off against international players.

With St Mirren, he was playing in a side that wasn't perhaps expected to finish in the top half of the Scottish Premiership, so he had to step up his game when he came to Hibs.

I'd suggest he needs to step it up another notch if he wants to force his way into Republic of Ireland squads and help take Hibs back to the upper echelons of the Scottish top flight.

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How likely is it that Doyle-Hayes leaves in this transfer window? Is he a part of Johnson's plans at Hibs, and what do you think Hibs might expect for him?

Hibs have already sent one first-team midfielder out on loan until the end of the season and Johnson has had to play a centre-back in midfield in recent weeks because of a shortage of natural CMs so I'd be surprised if Hibs were happy to lose him.Doyle-Hayes has only played once, as a sub, since coming back from injury but there's been no indication that he's agitating for a move and I can see him playing more regularly now he's fit again. His versatility means he can start games or come on as a sub and allow Johnson to change shape etc. Johnson said last month: "There’s interest in Jake, but he's not one that I've been actively saying, 'I want him out of the club'. I like Jake on the football side. I think he’s a really good footballer and we’ve missed his quality in certain games. He’s a player I’ve always trusted when he’s been on the pitch, whether that’s off the bench or from the start.

"I think me and my coaching staff can improve him. He's young enough. I worked with him for half an hour after training on Thursday – can I get him to play forward more, can I get him in positions where he can play forward and dictate the game with the skillset he already has, making sure the blend is right next to him, controlling the middle of the pitch rather than the half-spaces. These are all things we discussed and this is going on on a day-by-day basis with all the players."I don't think he'd leave unless it was for the right price, and if Hibs were happy for him to go. But I also don't think they're looking at central midfielders at the moment.

He turned down a move to Forest Green after Hibs accepted a bid earlier this month so I don't think he's desperate to leave, and he's almost certain to start on Sunday against Hearts in the Scottish Cup and will probably play a big part in the remainder of the season now he's fit again. His partner also gave birth shortly before Christmas which might be influencing any decisions he makes. He's under contract until the summer of 2025 so Hibs could probably command a fairly significant fee for him but I wouldn't want to speculate on how much that would be.

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