Joey Barton gives this assessment of Bristol Rovers’ transfer business as attention turns to free agents

Bristol Rovers are able to sign one more player - a free agent - but they face a dilemma

Joey Barton says Bristol Rovers may delve into the free agent market after missing out on transfer targets.

The Gas recruited up to 10 players from when the summer transfer window opened up as the 40-year-old assembled a squad capable of League One survival.

A few of the new recruits have suffered injuries such as James Gibbons and returnee James Connolly, who are set for a spell on the sidelines.

Rovers have had to deal with no longer being the big fish of League Two and have instead become a team in the market with the 23 other League One teams, including big hitters like Derby County, Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday.

The former Premier League clubs have flexed their financial muscle whilst Wael al-Qadi has backed Barton, but other teams boast an obvious bigger pool of resources.

It has left the former Newcastle United midfielder considering the free agent market after missing out on two targets on deadline day.

Speaking publicly for the first-time after the window slammed shut, Barton said: “I definitely would have wanted a bit more but also I think we’ve got more than enough to get the job done and the job for us is staying in the division.

“If I’d have gotten another winger and a left-sided centre-half I’d have been delighted with the window. As it was we didn’t quite manage to do that. We might be able to get stuff in the free transfer market but we’ll see how that plays out.”

He added: “I wish I could go and spend £500k. Wael’s been superb and given us the finances to take Macca (Luke McCormick), James Connolly and Jordan Rossiter.

“He’s given us more than enough support in the market and we think we’ve invested that in the right type of lads at the right age.

“Without bleating on about, we have to gradually build, we’re not going to go from a League Two side who got promoted on the last game of the season to winning League One.

“I wish it was the case and if we’d kept Connor Taylor and Elliot Anderson I think we might’ve been in that space but you know that’s a Championship quality player and a Premier League quality player.”

As per a FIFA ruling, clubs are limited to signing one free agent player signed outside of the transfer registration period, despite there being multiple players on offer.

Clubs can apply for special dispensation such as an emergy loan should there be an injury crisis, usually most seen when clubs do not have a senior goalkeeper available.

In previous years, loan windows has been available to Football League clubs but there was a demand for European clubs to shut their windows at the same time, which has closed that avenue.

Last summer, Glenn Whelan who was signed on September 4, was their free agent signing outside of the transfer window with their next signing not being until January.

Clubs being limited to just one free signing means that despite considering players in multiple areas, they must prioritise a position or player over the other, facing the risk of losing any other target after they have filled their quota.

Barton admitted he is unlikely to recruit a defender with players to come back, which makes a new winger the likeliest piece of business over the coming months.

A new arrival from now until the New Year could be an option but Barton is instead hoping to utilise the players at his disposal with a host of players to come back.

He hailed the new contract that Aaron Collins earned as the ‘best bit of business’ the club did, with interest from Portsmouth earlier in the summer.

Josh Coburn - a deadline day signing from Middlesbrough - faces a few weeks before making his Rovers bow but he has also been tipped to make an impact.

In his absence, Ryan Loft has pushed his way into the starting XI and scored his third goal in as many games against Morecambe on Saturday afternoon.

Barton said: “I think the best bit of business of the summer was securing Aaron Collins to a long-term contract because he looks like a real player.

“With the scarcity in the market we’ve got Josh Coburn to come back from injury who I think will make a real impact with us.

“I thought Ryan Loft was a right handful again, his third goal and that will do his confidence the world of good.”