Pompey linked Aaron Collins stripped of captaincy as Joey Barton fires Bristol Rovers warning

The ever-present Aaron Collins is not guaranteed to start for Bristol Rovers and may not start against Portsmouth
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Joey Barton says that talisman Aaron Collins is not guaranteed to start for Bristol Rovers and will be stripped of his captaincy against Portsmouth.

Sam Finley is a doubt for the weekend and Paul Coutts has suffered an issue with his knee that is likely to rule him out for the campaign. Collins has taken the role of captain but the armband will now go to a different player for the clash with Pompey on Saturday.

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Collins’ manager was unhappy that against Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday, the 25-year-old allegedly shirked out of an aerial duel. It prompted Barton to issue an ‘effort error’ strike against Collin’s name, with only two further opportunities. A second is a final warning and a third will result in a departure, no matter the status of the player.

Barton believes that Rovers’ top scorer and assists-man with 15 goals and 11 assists, could have had his head turned after the hype surrounding his performances. He had been a contender for a call-up to the Wales squad but did not make the cut and instead will have to pick himself up for matches against Portsmouth and Shrewsbury Town over the next 10 days.

He said: "I think he’ll be fine, it’s just whether I pick him. It’s the reality. He certainly won’t be captaining the team because he’s lost that privilege. I think it’s a real privilege to lead the club and he’ll learn the hard way it’s not something that lands on your arm in somebodies absence.

"There’s a level of performance and commitment that you owe to the history of this football club when you take on that leadership role on a match day. Hopefully, he puts himself in a position where he learns his lesson and we never tell him again. Knowing the type of lad he is it will have hurt him, he does certainly give his all. I just feel in the last two games, maybe the noise and the outside world affect his performance, I’ve got to make sure very quickly that stops.

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"Aaron has been a major source of goals and inspiration for us and certainly in the last two games. I’m not sure whether he’s had his head turned a little bit thinking he’s going to get called up or whatever or maybe looking beyond this season, we’ve kind of gone a little higher in the table in recent weeks. If you take your eyes off the prize for a second against anybody, teams are so closely matched, you’ll get your comeuppance."

Collins did not take to the training pitches on Thursday, after carrying a knock but has held discussions with Barton about his conduct. He is expected to be fit for the clash with John Mousinho’s side, but a start has not been guaranteed for a player that has been ever-present in all 36 matches in the league this season.

The Newport-born striker is in his second spell with the club after bouncing back from a release, and rewarded Barton for his patience after a barren-run in front of goal, before going on a scoring spree last season. He finished the top scorer in Rovers’ promotion-winning campaign last year, and his contribution this year has had him presented as the leading man of this youthful side.

"I’ve shown him the clip this morning that I am on about," Barton revealed. I’m not expecting him to be like Duncan Ferguson and lead the line. He’s captain of our football team, we’re at home, and in the first half he jumps for a header and thinks he’s going to get clattered and ducks. There’s no one behind him, unfortunately, it’s not acceptable.

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"Sometimes you have to put your body on the line and everyone else in the team is doing it. There’s no excuse for not doing that, I think it’s an insult to the quartered jersey and the people who pay your wages to not put your body there. In no uncertain terms by the comments I made after the game, he understands. I class that as an effect error and he hasn’t done anything other than be a good teammate and a good team person.

He added: "Every now and then you have to explain to the lads that effort errors will not be accepted at this level. It’s his first one, you get three of them. The second one is your final warning and the third one is you leave the building.

"I don’t care who you are if you don’t commit 100% to the jersey. No man for me is bigger than the badge on the front of the jersey. No matter how big the name on the back is and how much spoke gets blown up its backside. The badge on the front of the jersey is way more important than the name on the back.

"All we ask is you give 100% effort and the skill stuff, we’re with you on that. Ducking when there is an aerial challenge is insulting to our fan base. Aaron is aware of that and ensures me it won’t happen again."

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