Joey Barton has this strong warning to Bristol Rovers squad ahead of January transfer window

Joey Barton has put everyone at Bristol Rovers on alert - including coaches after their latest loss.

Joey Barton has sent a strong message to his players and staff. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Joey Barton has sent a strong message to his players and staff. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Joey Barton has sent a strong message to his players and staff. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Joey Barton says everyone at Bristol Rovers is under pressure as he threatens changes if his high standards aren’t met. The Gas boss saw his side on the wrong side of a seven goal thriller to Exeter City, in which he described his side’s defending as ‘schoolboy’.

Goals from Aaron Collins, Josh Coburn and Scott Sinclair turned the tide after first half goals from Sam Nombe and Archie Collins put the away side two up.

It was a head-in-hands moment for Barton, as he watched on while his side conceded two late goals from Tim Dieng and Sam Nombe in a host of defensive mistakes.

“It annoys me that we keep throwing points away at the level that we are because we are very close to being a very effective unit,” he said. “You’re only as strong as the weakest link and at this moment in time, the back line is the Keystone Cops at the minute,” admitted the 40-year-old.

“You could argue the third and fourth goals are not acceptable on the school playground, never mind in a professional environment. When I talk about the players I talk about the coaches as well, for me everybody is on notice. If things don’t improve and start to go in the direction I want to go then I will make changes.”

The Bristol Rovers boss pulled no punches in his post-match press conference, including his goalkeeper James Belshaw, who rushed out and was lobbed by Sam Nombe, winning the game for the away side. Belshaw has been part of a Rovers defence who have leaked 41 goals in 24 games this season, the third worst defence in league one. This is also the third time the Gas have shipped more than four goals in a game this season.

“Everyone’s position is under pressure, certainly when you don’t do your job,” he said. “Belly has saved us in lots of moments but for me you’ve got to be a lot more effective. If you’re conceding goals, you’ve got to organise the lads in front of you.

“I’ve played with goalkeepers where if you weren’t defending properly or putting your body on the line you’d be strung up against the wall. James is not that type of keeper. Ultimately the buck has to stop somewhere and if you’re trying to fix a problem, if there’s a puncture you’ve got to take a tyre off.”

The January transfer window is opening and initially, three new players was the number that Barton wanted to recruit, but that could change. Anssi Jaakkola is the back-up to Belshaw and had been the number one for several years, but was displaced by the former Harrogate goalkeeper and has not been able to force his way back in since.

Defence is an area that Barton admitted he would look to strengthen in, given it’s an area of concern. Belshaw is one part of that back line, and even his position could come under threat over the next month.

He said: “At the minute, Belly keeps goals, we’ve conceded 41 goals and if it doesn’t start to improve then naturally like everybody else’s in defence and midfield will be under duress. “You’re always looking to improve.

“Belly has been fantastic but we’re in the business of getting better and improving. Some people just reach the ceiling of what they’re capable of and they’re not capable of going any further.

“I’m here to get the club to the Championship, there are going to be lads in there that are fan favourites. They’re going to get moved on because if they don’t don’t produce and perform for me. I want to win and winners, you have got to be ruthless. It’s not about sentiment. I’m here to win games of football and to be an effective and efficient unit.”