Joey Barton hints at next Bristol Rovers signing as stance revealed on Stoke’s Connor Taylor
A few plates are spinning for Bristol Rovers at the moment but nothing is imminent in the midst of the final preparation for the start of the League One season
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Taylor was due to play against his loan club from last season but did not make the trip to the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday evening, despite having played in a majority of Stoke’s pre-season matches.
His absence did prompt some transfer talk given how his short-term future is yet to be decided by the Midlands club but his future remains undecided.
The 20-year-old recently signed a new three-year deal at the club with a hint that a new contract could mean a more prominent role with the Potters this year.
Andy Cousins, Stoke’s head of football operations however kept the door open over a potential return when asked earlier this week.
Barton has made no secret he would like to reunite with most of the loan players that were a huge part of last season’s success but remains respectful as he is not contracted to the club.
Asked whether he’s a target for this summer, he responded: “He did great here last year and we’ll forever be grateful to him. He isn’t our player at the end of the day. You’re in Stoke’s hands on that but we’d love to have him back because he was a great fit for us.
“He really enjoyed his time here and we certainly enjoyed his performances. If that option is there and Stoke want to loan him out, we’d be delighted to have him back.
“He’s not our player and I’m thinking he could play in their first-team from what I have seen tonight. I know they’ll improve and get better but Connor was a fantastic player for us.
“It would have been nice to see him. I’ve got a few at Stoke, I’ve got Harry Souttar and Connor wasn’t here either. It would have been nice to catch up with them and see them.”
To date, Rovers have brought in four players this summer, though the last was John Marquis, signed over a fortnight ago.
James Gibbons kicked off the transfer business before Jordan Rossiter joined and then the return of James Connolly.
But after allowing 13 first-team players to leave, there are still gaps left to be filled in the squad, with youth players like Jerry Lawrence, Ryan Jones and Sam Heal currently filling those roles.
There is still over a month to go until the summer transfer window shuts and that leaves Barton with still a desire to recruit to between five and seven players.
“We’ve got a good foundation to build off but I still think I’m five, six, seven away from where I want to be. That is if we get everything dropping in because you can make five subs next year so for me you see the impact from the legs coming off the bench.
“We like to keep our business close to our chest. We’re relatively mobile in those spaces, we tend to have good information and hopefully we can recruit some good players for our football team. If we had a little more quality we’ve got a good side on our hands again.”
It is exactly ten days to go until the season opener against Forest Green Rovers, which will be played in front of a slightly impacted Memorial Stadium crowd.
One eye will be on that match whilst also trying to secure targets, including Luke Thomas, who according to BristolLive, is a strong contender to return.
Nothing however has imminent at the moment and the starting XI that played Stoke and played a majority of the match may not see too many changes.
But there is a stark contrast to last season where recruitment of more than 10 players was needed to fill the squad, whilst for now the core of last season’s team remains.
Asked if anything was close, Barton responded: “No. Things are progressing and moving slowly in the background but I’m calmer than what I would be normally. That’s probably because I’ve got a promotion on my CV. This time last year I’d have been clucking and laying eggs with nine games out till the start of the season with work to do.
“This year is totally different, it’s a lot more settled. We need to show a bit of patience in the market place and make sure we add real quality to our group.”
One position that could be strengthened is up front, as more support for Marquis, Ryan Loft as well as Aaron Collins and Harvey Saunders.
Last season’s top scorer has moved out to the flanks to accommodate new signing Marquis, whilst Saunders was tried centrally against Stoke and scored his fourth goal in as many games.
“It is why we were so keen to sign a number nine done and you saw the difference John Marquis made today and he is still striving away for fitness. He’s probably ten days behind the group as he had to go away on his honeymoon.
“There wasn’t an awful lot of value in that space at that time in the market. Everyone seems to be looking for forward thinking players. Everyone seems to be looking for strikers. We’ve got some targets identified and are moving towards those. Whether we can pull them off or not I’m not sure.”