The forgotten Bristol Rovers midfielder that could change transfer plans

Can Zain Westbrooke emerge from the shadows and make himself a prominent member of the Bristol Rovers first-team again?

Bristol Rovers are in the market for an attacking midfielder as they look to recruit more bodies for the upcoming season.

Last season, Rovers went for a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation, however you read it into tactics and there had to be a way to accommodate both Evans and young star Elliot Anderson.

Anderson has since returned to Newcastle United and is to be given a run of games to see if he is capable of playing for the first-team.

That along with the departure of winger Sam Nicholson to Colorado Rapids has left the Gas shorter on attacking options.

The signing of Jordan Rossiter from Fleetwood Town has added some depth to the defensive and central midfield options but there’s still a need for a playmaker option.

Any potential signing may have to accept playing second fiddle to Anthony Evans who is likely to be the focal point in the Rovers side this season having penned a new three-year contract.

Evans excelled in League Two last year and got 22 goal contributions but the step up to League One is one he will need to acclimatise to after spells with Blackpool and Crewe Alexandra at this level.

With momentum on his side and there being a positive feel around the place, there is no reason why he can’t continue his form into this campaign.

But it’s known that more reinforcements are needed to compete and out of the five to six players that Joey Barton wants through the door, an attacking midfielder will be one of them.

They had to cross Callum Camps off their list as having been an option in the January window, he opted to join Football League newcomers Stockport County after his Fleetwood Town contract expired.

Barton has a different target in mind but is it possible that there may be someone who could be slightly more cost given he is already here is Zain Westbrooke?

Westbrooke is back and is part of the first-team setup after returning from his loan as he enters his final year. He was part of the second-half XI that played against Melskham Town in their first preseason game.

The 25-year-old’s time loan at Stevenage was hardly a memorable one and he didn’t return as a player in blistering form, having not played in their last eight matches when Steve Evans arrived.

But he’s here and still in the picture, having been a bench option for Rovers last year, playing 92 minutes in the three appearances that he had.

A signing from Ben Garner’s reign, Barton’s side that he has today is mainly of his own signings but Westbrooke can still be an option should he take the opportunity given to him.

For most of his career, Westbrooke has been a League One footballer and at that level, he has played 73 games, with eight assists and six goals. He’s experienced both winning a league title at that level as well as suffering relegation, but it will be the title-winning player that Rovers will want to see.

That 2019/20 winning season saw him play a big part in the Sky Blues success, starting 22 times whilst also coming off of the bench. There’s a tidy player in there and for someone who has a League One winner’s medal in his trophy cabinet maybe Barton can get a fine tune out of him again.

The likelihood is that a new signing will come and that will put Westbrooke lower down the pecking order but sometimes these weeks of pre-season can really change a manager’s perception of a player.