Joey Barton issues transfer plea to Everton over £6m Bristol Rovers star

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Bristol Rovers are helpless to the fact one of their best players may not be at the club next season.

Joey Barton admits he would like to keep Lewis Gibson at Bristol Rovers beyond this season but it is Everton who will have the final say over his future.

Gibson is on a season-long loan with the Gas and scored his first goal in professional football in the 2-1 win against Fleetwood Town on Easter Monday. The 22-year-old was given the captain’s armband against Portsmouth and when Sam Finley departed on Monday, he took on the role again.

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Centre-half is an area that Rovers will need to address in the summer with James Connolly the only player in that position contracted beyond this season. Gibson had admitted last month he was open to staying at the Memorial Stadium but was focused on completing the campaign.

Everton bought Gibson from Newcastle United in a deal worth up to £6m in 2017 but he is out of-contract in the summer. He was given a one-year extension before joining Rovers but his future at Goodison Park is uncertain.

Sean Dyche is at the helm at the Merseyside club and once managed Barton during their time together at Burnley. Despite their close friendship, the future of Gibson has not been on the agenda, and instead Dyche’s priority has been to ensure survival in the Premier League.

“It’ll depend on what Everton want to do,” responded Barton in his pre-match press conference ahead of Rovers clash with Derby County.

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“I haven’t spoken to Dychey about it. We speak almost on a daily basis but Gibbo isn’t one we’ve spoken about.

“I think it’ll depend what his contract is at Everton and what Everton do and what division they are in.

“If Everton drop to the Championship they may well keep hold of Gibbo. I don’t know what the future looks like. I think it’s less likely if they stay in the Premier League but who knows?

“I know Dychey was a centre-half and he’ll be watching Lewis and fully aware of his qualities.”

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Rovers have utilised the loan market during Barton’s tenure but have found themselves in a repeated cycle of having to replace other clubs’ players. Gibson effectively replaced Connor Taylor who was a success last year but they have also had to dabble with Bobby Thomas and now Jarell Quansah.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup winner worked with Barton at Fleetwood and that would help in any negotiations if Everton decided to part ways with the youngster. Gibson’s string of good performances however could attract interest from teams in the Championship however, who have significant resources.

Barton added: “We’d love him to stay at the football club but he’s Everton’s player and he knows exactly how we feel about him.

“From our perspective, if someone comes from higher up with a bigger budget and the opportunity to play in the Championship it’s going to be tricky. He’s enjoying his football, being fit and in a good defence.

“He’s played a lot of football for me as a manager, and hopefully he wants to do that more. We’d be delighted to do that if that’s the case but it’s not in our court.”

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