Joey Barton has firm message on Bristol Rovers ambitions and League One challenge

The 39-year-old gave the exact points needed for his side to be a success in League One this season
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Joey Barton says Bristol Rovers’ ‘priority’ will be to finish on 52 points or more in League One this season.

After final day heroics which completed the most unlikely of promotions at the first time of asking, the Gas are back in League One again after a years absence.

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He has made it no secret he wants his side to hit the ground running and has already been specific on how many points he expects from his side through the entirety of the 2022/23 campaign.

As one of the four promoted teams, there isn’t much expectation from outside the club for Rovers to perform.

Bookmakers have them as 14th favourites to win promotion - the highest of any of the clubs promoted - whilst other predictions have predicted them to either be relegated or be in the relegation picture.

Despite Barton’s experience at this level with Fleetwood Town, he has kept his expectations simple for his squad which is to remain in the division.

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“The priority for us has to be 52 points,” admitted Barton, “Historically that is enough to stay in the division.”

“Last year I think it was down near 42 points, which was a bit of a freak table last year but the priority for us is to get those 52 points as quick as possible.

“We’ll get better as each game passes. We won’t be the finished article when the bell goes at 3pm on Saturday, but we’ve got more than enough to be competitive.

“We will incrementally improve as the window starts to tighten up because the market will flush out, but we’re starting from such a better spot than we were this time last year.”

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A return of 52 points in League One last year would have landed Rovers in 17th place - 12 clear of relegated Gillingham in 21st in what was a particularly low points tally in recent years.

Entering the season in a new season will bring new challenges and a potential change in culture with a shift from being favourites to underdogs in some cases.

Rovers were well fancied at the start of last season and were tipped to succeed with Barton himself stating in August that ‘I know we are going to get promoted.’

Elevation to a higher league though means that the bigger club tags go to the likes of Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and recently relegated Derby County.

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All clubs have considerably higher financial resources with Ipswich exchanging almost £1m for Leeds United left-back Leif Davies whilst Derby have signed a number of Championship players.

It has meant that the focus has perhaps changed for the upcoming season and that survival will be the objective first and foremost.

Barton said: “There may be less intensity and expectation in the outside world, but there’s more internally in terms of what we’re looking for this season.”

“We’re going to have some big clubs come to our stadium this year, and we’re going to go to theirs with our big following and we’re going to shock loads of teams this year.”

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Barton summarised, saying: “If we’re a League One side in May, that’s a good season for Bristol Rovers – if we can do more, great, but the minimum is to establish the club as a league one side again.”

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