Joey Barton instructs five Bristol Rovers players to find new clubs in squad shake-up

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Less than a month til the deadline, Joey Barton is shaking up the squad as he looks to redirect the resources at his disposal

Joey Barton has instructed five Bristol Rovers players to find new clubs including three first-team players as he looks to shake up the first-team squad.

First-team players Trevor Clarke and Zain Westbrooke are free to leave as is the long-serving Alex Rodman, whilst youngsters Jamie Egan and Sam Heal are also a part of the quintet.

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Despite the Gas’ squad being thin on numbers owing to injuries which saw player-coach Glenn Whelan named on the bench, Barton is making his mark now rather than waiting until the end of the transfer window.

The 39-year-old who has previously stated his intentions to recruit up to seven new players by the deadline of September 1, could use the money from the five departures to reinvest into the squad.

All players who have been made aware of his stance on them remain contracted but with their futures seemingly lying elsewhere, there could be an influx of academy graduates to fill the match-day squad over the coming weeks.

"I've got to clear the decks really so I've decided that some boys who haven't got a future here, there's no point dragging it on,” Barton said ahead of the weekend trip to Burton Albion.

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"I just don't think it's fair to carry them on down the track with us when they're not going to be part of our future and that allows us to bring six young boys across today from the academy who are raw, are young but are full of potential and I'll much prefer to give those guys the reps than keep turning to people, for no fault of their own, they're all good lads, they just don't have the skillset that I require for us to move forward."

"We are short at the minute but we are turning to guys who aren't going to have an impact in our group and I would much prefer to open the pathways for the next crop, the next generation.

"We've lost five players this week who won't have a future with us: Alex Rodman, obviously, Trevor Clarke, Zain Westbrooke, Jamie Egan and Sam Heal.”

Perhaps the most surprising name of the list is left-back Trevor Clarke, who only penned a new two-year deal back in June after being out of contract, that however was a ‘mistake’ now admits Barton.

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Clarke joined last summer on a free transfer after leaving Rotherham United but struggled for game time, mainly through a few spells of injury.

The 24-year-old made just seven appearances in the promotion winning campaign last year but had started on the opening day as first-choice.

Barton said: "I made a mistake bringing Trevor Clarke back, I shouldn't have brought him back, I should have really known that from last year but I gave him a chance and he hasn't managed to take it.”

This looks to be the permanent end of Westbrooke’s difficult spell since making the move from Coventry City - League One champions at the time - to the Memorial Stadium.

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He looked as though he had brought his way back into contention for the start of the season and was handed a number of starts, however the former Coventry City midfielder is one of the senior players allowed to move on.

Having initially been given a role when Barton arrived back in February 2021, he was given a plenty of playing time but things changed when Barton was able to recruit his own players after relegation.

Westbrooke was sent out on loan to Stevenage in the second half of the 2021/22 League Two campaign after finding opportunities limited under Barton.

He said: "Zain is a top kid, I really want him to do well, but it just hasn't worked at Rovers and I can't keep turning to him because Jerry Lawrence doesn't get minutes if Zain's about, because you would naturally go to the more experienced boy. I don't think it's fair on Zain and sometimes you just have to draw a line under it and got to help them boys find new clubs."

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Alex Rodman, who has served the club for the last four seasons, mainly in League One, with just shy of 100 appearances in the Blue and White quarters will also be available for transfer.

Rodman, who’s contract was extended to this year under the previous regime was given reduced terms and Barton didn’t envisage him featuring in his plans this season.

The 35-year-old has been injured during pre-sason and didn’t feature in many of their matches as they stepped up their preparations for the season ahead.

"Rodders has got decision to make what he wants to do, but he's reported for pre-season injured after having the whole summer off and then hasn't been with the group for six weeks.

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“At his age, with his record of games, if he missed pre season, it is tricky for the rest of the season, especially when we're stepping up a division and the intensity goes up.”

Egan and Heal are the other two that can move on however they weren’t prominent members of the first-team squad, though it is understood their departures will only be temporary.

Rovers have no Under-21’s team which means that there is a difficulty for players over the age of 18-yeas-old when trying to get game time with only the EFL Trophy and Carabao Cup acting as opportunities.

Centre-back Egan had a successful loan spell with Hereford in the National League North last season, whilst Heal was stepping up his recovery after suffering a serious knee injury.

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“I’ve told them all to explore the market and find new clubs and with the two young boys, I could keep them in, but it’s just not fair on them,.

“They’re probably going to have to drop out of the league and into non-league, I think Jamie has done that at Hereford before. Sam Heal, he needs to go and play men’s football. He doesn’t need to be hanging around our training ground.”

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