Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has mapped out the club’s plans for on-loan Bristol Rovers defender Connor Taylor.
Taylor has been a consistent figure in the back line of the Gas defence this season, playing regular football, alongside a number of different centre-back partners.
The 20-year-old has made 39 appearances for the Pirates this season, keeping 14 clean sheets, mainly alongside fellow loanee James Connolly, who is at the Memorial Stadium from Cardiff City.
But after the conclusion of the campaign, he will return to his parent club, where they will assess him to see whether he is capable of playing football in English football’s second tier.
“When he comes back in pre-season he’ll be part of the squad and we’ll make an assessment of where he is,” said Michael O’Neill to the Stoke Sentinel.
“That’s what we did with Harry. Harry had numerous loans at Ross County then Fleetwood and he came back and the previous manager opted for him to go back to Fleetwood.
“I brought him back at the first opportunity and we assessed him in preseason. Harry thought it was right to go out on loan again, I thought it wasn’t and he’s now a Stoke player. That’s what you have to do and you have to fight to come through.
“It’ll be really good for us to see Connor. When you drop players back into the first team squad and maybe start to look at them in pre-season games, that’s when you get a real picture of where his progression is.
“We watch him regularly playing at League Two level but it’s when we bring him back into the group here that we’ll be able to assess where he is at this minute in time.”
His performances have not gone amiss as he was nominated for the Young Player of the Year award in League Two.
He will compete with Newport County’s Finn Azaz and Shadrach Ogie of Leyton Orient for the prize, which will be held on April 24.
There is also the potential that he could be named in the Team of the Season, which will be announced on the same night as the awards.
Taylor has drawn comparisons with centre-back Harry Souttar, who is one of the centre-backs he will compete with for a starting place when he returns to the Midlands in the summer.
Soutter spent time on loan with Fleetwood Town, working under Joey Barton in two separate seasons, before returning and playing two seasons of Championship football.
“It’ll be really good for us to see Connor,” said the former Northern Ireland manager. “If he’s been nominated for that award he’s obviously had a very good season.”
“Connor’s been really good, he’s had a really, really good loan and played a lot of games. Some of the lads have had mixed loans and that can be tricky.
“Connor’s had a good loan at Bristol Rovers under Joey Barton, which is interesting because Harry Souttar was similar under Joey at Fleetwood.”