Joey Barton explains recent omission of January signing as striker waits for Bristol Rovers opportunity

January signing Ryan Loft could still be the hero for Rovers this season despite limited playing opportunities

Joey Barton has given Ryan Loft some words of encouragement after his exclusion from the most recent Bristol Rovers matchday squad.

The 24-year-old was left out of the squad to face Tranmere Rovers last week, despite not carrying any knocks or an illness.

Loft, who joined from bottom-of-the-table Scunthorpe United, hasn’t made the desired impact so far since making the January move from Glanford Park for an undisclosed fee.

In his ten appearances, where only two have been starts, he has failed to score and has been unable to make an influence on the season.

But his manager has praised him for the work he has done this week and is now in consideration to play against Salford City on Good Friday.

“He won’t be happy but they train here all the time and speak to him all the time,” said Barton. He knows the reasons he wasn’t in the squad.

“He knows the work that he has to do. The lads aren’t stupid, they know there is a lot of competition in the squad. There is no easy leave.

“We bought Lofty not just for this season in mind, we felt it was a part of the pitch we could do with improving.

“It might take him a bit of time to get him to get his feet under the table because you know what we do here, train, and how we prepare is slightly different to most teams.

“We train at a different intensity and that takes a subtle adjustment period.

“He’s trained really well this week, which is arguably his best week  of training, and put himself back in the mix because of his training performance.”

This week’s training has been a positive one for Barton and his set of players, as there is a clean bill of health.

Alex Rodman, who has been with the club for a few years, but has played a bit-part role this campaign, rejoined in training.

His availability allowed Barton to run two teams of 11, which were pitted against one another ahead of their League Two clash at the Memorial Stadium.

With players returning and competition for places high, Barton believes that any one of his members, no matter the previous part they have played this season, could be the hero, whether it be through the automatics or the play-offs.

‘The squad has been growing and building, I’ve had 25 players back on the training pitch for the first time ever,” he revealed.

"It’s like my garden, you have your tulips and all your lovely flowers coming through. The daffodils are starting to wane and go but they are still there.

“Even if they are disappointed that they are not involved, they support the group and the team. To not be able to reward them with minutes at the weekend for me is the toughest part of the job.

“The difficult thing for me is looking after everybody and making sure they are valued and cared for and knows they have got a role to play.

“Because who knows who is going to be the person if we go to Wembley or the play-off semi-final or a late goal to get us automatics. It could be anybody in our squad because that is what the season has shown us.

“It has been a real group effort, it’s almost like a Tour de France team, taking the wind and leading the peloton and our group at different times and long may that continue.

“It will be a real tip of the cap to the squad should we be successful this season as it will be a real group effort.”