Joey Barton’s first XI as Bristol Rovers boss and where they are two years on

It’s just more than two years since Joey Barton named his first Bristol Rovers XI
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Joey Barton recently celebrated his two-year anniversary with Bristol Rovers after being appointed on February 22, 2021. He was their first boss of the season after Paul Tisdale's short spell came to an end after he succeeded Ben Garner.

It's been a rollercoaster ride with the 40-year-old, who has overseen one relegation as well as one of the most dramatic promotions in Football League history. At the time of his appointment the Gas were two points above the relegation zone and Barton had just come out of his first managerial job which was at League One rivals Fleetwood Town.

The former Newcastle United and Manchester City midfielder did not wait around and rather than allow for the coaching staff to take the game which came the next day, Barton immediately managed his first game, which came a day after his appointment against Wigan Athletic.

Rovers were on a wretchered run of form and had won just once in their last 12 games and unfortunately for Barton there was no new manager bounce. Will Keane headed a ball in to the path of Callum Lang to head home to give the Latics the lead. Luke McCormick equalised for the hosts in the 69th minute after Brandon Hanlan had played him in to give his side hope. It wasn't until the fifth minute of additional time however that a cruel blow was dealt when Scott Wootton's injury-time volley beat Joe Day to confirm victory for their relegation rivals and bring Rovers in to the bottom four.

A lot has changed two-years on, and out of the 16 players that featured that day, only three of them are still with the club right now. Here we take a look as to what the first team that Joey Barton named are up to now.

GK: Joe Day (Newport County)

The 32-year-old is back in Wales with Newport County in what is his third spell. Day joined Rovers on loan from Cardiff City but he made just one appearance for the Bluebirds, and at Rovers he featured 20 times. He returned to Cardiff after his loan expired but his contract was up and he joined the Exiles.

RB: George Williams (Cambridge United)

The right-back made the move from MK Dons mid season, joining for an undisclosed fee from Tisdale’s former club MK Dons. Williams is involved in a relegation battle with Cambridge at the moment, but he was playing regularly for them up until the last three matches where he as a substitute.

CB: Alfie Kilgour (Mansfield Town)

Kilgour played under numerous managers and as an academy graduate was someone that fans looked up to, but last month he was sold for an undisclosed fee to Mansfield Town. He’s had a great start to life at the Field Mill and went on a hot scoring streak which has helped the Stags in their quest for promotion out of League Two.

CB: Cian Harries (Swindon Town)

Harries was allowed to leave in the summer and he dropped down a division to join League Two outfit Swindon Town, who lost out in the play-offs last year.

LB: Luke Leahy (Shrewsbury Town

A penalty specialist for the Gas. Leahy is now playing under former Bristol City boss Steve Cotterill and he has been converted in to a centre defensive midfielder.

CM: Luke McCormick (Bristol Rovers)

McCormick was adored by fans who watched through their iFollow subscriptions, and fans wanted him to remain but he returned to Chelsea and then joined Wimbledon on loan. He suffered the same fate with the Dons, and last summer Rovers successfully brought him back for an undisclosed fee.

CM: Josh Grant (Bristol Rovers)

A utility man last season for Rovers, playing in numerous roles uner Barton, and before an injury in the second-half of the season, he was a contender for Player of the Year. Grant is currently sidelined with a knee problem and his contract is up in the summer but he could be kept around.

CM: Ed Upson (Stowmarket Town)

During Upson's youth career he played for Stowmarket Town, and at 32-years-old he joined his local side after joining Newport County following his Rovers exit and later Stevenage.

RW: Alex Rodman (Bristol Rovers)

Rodman remains at the club but is not a part of the first-team picture at all. He is one of the longest-serving players at Rovers but has not featured in any squad this season.

ST: Brandon Hanlan (Wycombe Wanderers)

Hanlan did pre-season with Rovers after their relegation and there was bids from Lincoln City, but Barton wanted him to remain. The former Charlton forward ended up getting a move to Wycombe and scored against Manchester City at the Etihd in the Carabao Cup.

LW: Sam Nicholson (Colorado Rapids)

Nicholson moved from the MLS to Rovers and he was seen as one of the best players in an under-performing side. The Scotsman stayed around for the League Two campaign, but despite being offered a new deal, he opted to return to America.


Zain Westbrooke (for Ed Upson, 59) - Free Agent

Westbrooke arrived from Coventry City who had just won the League One title, and there was a lot of hype around him but he just could not match his expection. Westbrooke had chances under a few managers but could not get back in Barton’s plans after a loan at Stevenage, he was released in January.

Ali Koiki (for Alex Rodman, 65) - Northampton Town

Koiki was with Rovers' promotion rivals Northampton Town last season, and despite interest from higher divisions he has remained at Sixfields.

James Daly (for Nicholson, 85) - Woking

Daly made the move from Crystal Palace where Garner worked but he only got four goals in 35 matches, and he joined Stevenage on a free transfer when his contract expired. Daly joined National League outfit Woking last summer and has a had a career best season.

Erhun Oztumer (for McCormick, 86) - Adana Demirspor

Oztumer joined Rovers on loan from Charlton and he played 25 times in total during his time at the club. The English-born midfielder earned a move to the Turkish Super League with Fatih Karagumruk and is now with Adana Demirspor, who also have former Manchester City boss Gokhan Inler on their books.

Jonah Ayunga (for Hanlan, 86) - St Mirren

Ayunga was signed from Havant & Waterlooville and there was a hope that Ayunga would be a gem from the non-league. He spent one season with the club scoring three goals in 35 matches. He joined Morecambe for an undisclosed fee, and after being transfer listed, he reunited with Stephen Robinson at St Mirren.