Major Bristol Rovers transfer hint made as Joey Barton hints at change in policy

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The Gas boss wants up to 12 new signings - and two of them will be pivotal.

Joey Barton believes that it is imperative that Bristol Rovers replace Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts this summer.

Whelan has retired from playing, ending a 20-year career, and will focus on playing duties. Coutts is out of contract, and suffered a knee injury which ended his campaign, and it is assumed he will take a coaching role, with his playing career uncertain.

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Should both remain in a coaching capacity, the two will still have a presence in the changing room, but will be unable to affect things on the pitch. It leaves only Scott Sinclair, James Belshaw, John Marquis and Sam Finley as their over 30 players with only Finley considered captain at the club.

Rovers during Barton’s tenure have mainly recruited young players, with a reliance on the loan market to supplement the squad. Five loan players are to return to their parent clubs in the Premier League and Championship this summer, and there could be a slight change in the approach to transfers, with a desire for experience to help mount a play-off push.

Appearing on Having a Gas with Geoff Twentyman on BBC Radio Bristol, he said: “ a commitment to them and they’ve got a commitment to us. I think we have to recruit we feel we need. We definitely need to get a bit more experience and a little bit more masculinity in to our changing room.

“We’re losing Whelo and Paul Coutts, you lose two enormous men from the dressing room and I mean that in the kindest possible terms.

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“They’re leaders and standard bearers. If we don’t replace them I think our group is a little bit too young. This is a tough physical league and certainly if you look at the teams who have got promoted this season or a chance of being promoted in the play-offs. it’s a different type of balance that they’ve got.

“I think we need to adjust. We’ve got the nucleus of a really good exciting attacking young bunch. It’s not uprooting branches like it’s been in previous windows. It’s tweaking it to get it right to build on what was a frustrating but good consolidating season.”

Much has been said about Glenn Whelan’s impact since joining last season, and he has received tributes from the likes of Jack Grealish, as well as his former club Sheffield Wednesday. Paul Coutts - whilst not having played international football or played in the Premier League has still had an equal contribution to helping change Rovers fortunes.

Coutts - like Whelan - joined on a free transfer from Fleetwood - after going out on loan to Salford City when Barton departed Highbury Stadium. He was appointed the club captain on the eve of the new campaign and after a slow start in which he was sent off against Mansfield Town, his performances grew and he became a commanding figure in the centre of the park.

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“He’s been outstanding for me in my time at Fleetwood,” Barton added. He came in and was brilliant in terms of setting the standard. Not only off the pitch but on it. He came in to a very difficult dressing room here. It was fractured and certainly a lot of standards had fallen below the acceptable level if you want to be successful in professional football.

“He’s been integral to us building a proper football club with a lot better standards. I think players being fit for purpose, people see that as a given in football, if you spent a lot of time in different dressing rooms it isn’t. It is why when you get it, you’ve got to work so hard to keep it. Without Couttsy’s work there on and off the pitch it would have been a lot more difficult for me to help turn around the fortunes of the football club.”

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