Bristol Rovers contract stance outlined on influential duo Antony Evans and Sam Nicholson
Bristol Rovers pair Antony Evans and Sam Nicholson are two of 13 players whose deals expire at the end of this season.
Up to 13 players are out of contract with the Gas at the end of the season, whilst there are also five loan players who will return to their parent clubs in the summer.
Last week Rovers managed to tie down academy graduate Luca Hoole to a new deal which will keep him at the Memorial Stadium for a further two years and there is a hope that similar news will follow soon.
Social media has been awash with supporters responding to the official club feed with a desire to tie down the likes of Antony Evans and Sam Nicholson, who have been influential throughout the campaign with Joey Barton aware of their desires.
“There has to be a desire from the player, if the player wants to stay we can make that happen,” he said. “You could be facing decisions that players don’t want to be here because they’ve got better options that are lucrative or with more prestige.
“We have to guard against that and those players in question, everyone is aware of their qualities here so that doesn’t mean that the rest of the footballing world isn’t. If they don’t want to be here no problem, we’ll replace them.
“You might think that’s impossible but fortunately as good as those lads have been, they’re not Lionel Messi or Kylian Mbappe, we’ll find players who will represent the jersey and do the right things.
“We’ve got a massive football club here and if someone gets an opportunity to go elsewhere, great no problem, we’ll get someone here who flourishes in our team.”
As is the nature of clubs operating at League Two, long term contracts are a rarity at this level, especially for some of the better players as the career of a footballer is relatively short, so seeking the best opportunity to preserve their career is advised.
It means that clubs have to operate as astutely as possible and sometimes clubs have to consign themselves to losing players to a higher level, prising them away either for free or for a nominal fee.
Discussions are said to take place over the next weeks and months but that will depend on whether there is an appetite from both parties to talk about extending their stay at the club .
Should some players not want to remain at the football club then Barton has promised that they will still give maximum effort in their remaining time in the blue and white quarters.
“We’ll try and get those deals over the line if they are possible. We have to be mindful of not breaking our pay structure,” he said.
“We have to be mindful that we’re building a group effort and a team effort here. Them lads will no doubt as the CEO and their agents sit down and chat in the next couple of weeks and months, it’ll come to the fore.
“If they do sign a deal then fantastic, I’ll be delighted as Hooley’s done and we can continue their development.
“If they don’t then they’ll do everything they can for the quarters until the end of the season where they’ll go to pastures new and that’s football sometimes. I’m optimistic, we’ve got a better chance of keeping our talent now than when I walked in the building.”
It is understood that rather than Barton playing a major role in negotiations for new deals, he will speak to CEO Tom Gorringe about what players he wants to remain at the club and the latter will be the most responsible for ensuring their futures.
There was a slight jibe made towards former director of football Tommy Widdrington and Martyn Starnes, both of whom left the club towards the end of last year. The pair were responsible for extending the deals during Barton’s first year in charge.
Relegation from League One saw a total of 17 players either released or their contracts terminated which made for a massive squad rebuilding exercise.
A number of key players were allowed to depart, which included experienced left-back Luke Leahy who joined Shrewsbury Town on a free transfer.
The 29-year-old is a player that Barton would have still liked to have worked with more to this present day given the lack of options on that side.
“I still think we’re suffering from not keeping a Luke Leahy in the building, I thought it was important,” he revealed.
“Tommy and Martin were responsible for getting contracts done and told us all the while that ‘it’s done, it’s done’, and they were absolutely miles away from it, because they were not at the required level you want to operate at if you want to be excellent and we are.
There are still 18 games left to be played and for some players, they may assess their futures come the end of the season rather than commit to anything now.
Rovers still have an outside chance of making the play-offs but must go on a consistent run of form if they are to make that. Should they fail to make the top seven then there would be a plan to keep their best players for a stronger push on the division next year.
Improved individual performances may change Rovers’ hands as there may be more of a push to keep hold of their best players, but that could depend on what division they find themselves in.
There is though a firm outline from Barton that the football club is adhering to a strict pay structure that ensures they are sustainable in this unpredictable financial climate with clubs still facing the after affects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If there is an opportunity to get those boys engaged and settled down into new contracts it’ll be done and it’ll happen in good time.
“There are games to take place and performances to be turned in.
“Contracts can be sorted out at any time and hopefully we’ll get that. So many moving parts and we’re not gonna be in a position where we’ll be held ransom by anyone. There is no bending over backwards to break our pay structure because we ain’t Man City.”