Joey Barton has admitted that he is looking to make subtle changes to his Bristol Rovers squad in January. The transfer window opens in a month’s time and already plans are in place to recruit new players, as well as to ship those out.
After a slow start to the season, the Gas’ form has changed of late and they now sit in 15th, a comfortable ten points ahead of the drop zone at this stage of the season.
Ahead of their trip to Bolton, Barton has revealed that the aim for this season is still the 52 point mark, despite their win over promotion favourites Peterborough last week, and he hopes the January transfer window could be of use to his side.
He said: “You always need a couple of bodies. I still think we’re a couple of bodies away from having a group capable of getting out of the division.
“We’re making a decent fist of a season of consolidation. The reality of this season is if we can establish our status as early as possible.
“We’ll see where we are. For me getting to 52 points, ensuring we’re a League One side next season allows us another two recruitment windows with January and the summer.”
Rovers came off the back of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of National League side Boreham Wood, ending their FA Cup run for the season.
A strong team was named but Barton had to contend with several players being ruled out at the last minute due to a sickness going through the squad. Rovers were still able to name an 18-man squad with several regular first-team players with enough quality on the pitch to get the job done.
Boreham Wood however surprised Rovers with two goals in the first-half, and despite four substitutions at half-time, the desired response did not come and they were victims of an FA Cup upset. The home faithful stayed to applaud the away team off the pitch whilst showing their displeasure to their own players.
“I think Sunday was a rude awakening for people getting ahead of themselves,” admitted Barton. I think the depth in the squad isn’t there.”
“But judging by the fact we got dumped out of the cup by Boreham Wood, the level I want the squad to be at isn’t there at the moment.”
Rovers signed a total of 11 players over the course of the summer and into the winter, with Scott Sinclair joining on a free transfer. One of the summer signings Sylvester Jasper was sent back to Fulham after less than 10 games, but that could allow more players to join in January.
The January transfer window is an opportunity for teams to strengthen their team and push ahead with their goals. Rovers’ immediate goal is to remain in the division and they are so far on course to do that.
Barton said: “For me there’ll be a couple of people going out and a couple of people coming in, that’s always ideal, it’s just a slight tweak which is just natural for every January.
“As I say, Wael’s been superb with his support and again chucking around some of the targets that could be available in January, he’s keen on producing a really good team for the football club.
“Since I’ve been here the support has been incredible, we’re always looking to evolve and move the group forward and if January presents the opportunity to do that, I think we’ll do that.”
“I would expect there won’t be masses of changes because we only need a little bit of adjustment but there will also be lads here who haven’t played enough and will naturally want to go out and try and play.”
One player that Barton hopes to keep at the club is Sinclair, who has recently forced his way into the starting XI. Sinclair joined on a short-term deal in mid-October and it expires in January.
He has scored winning goals against Rochdale and Peterborough United, and has been described as a positive influence to his teammates.
Barton added: “We’ve started discussions with him and his agent, so no doubt that will unfold in the next couple of weeks."