The 9 Bristol Rovers players facing their last game for the club and others in limbo

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Bristol Rovers v Bolton Wanderers at the Memorial Stadium could be the last time we see these players

Bristol Rovers, who have had their League One status secure for the last month, have another busy summer in store ahead of them.

Joey Barton’s side achieved his target of 52 points set out by him at the start of the campaign. It was the usual target of what was needed for survival and with three of Accrington, Cambridge, Morecambe and MK Dons to go down, Rovers have been able to stay up over some of the long-serving teams in the division.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A play-off push looked a possibility at one point but a difficult January in which they didn’t land their preferred transfer targets meant they lost their momentum. Teams above them with bigger resources and already equipped squads strengthened and they had to settle for a below mid-table place.

Sunday’s match with Bolton Wanderers is played exactly a year to the day they clinched promotion to League Two. Five players in the squad that day are no longer at Rovers and it looks to be another busy summer ahead with potentially 12 signings coming through the door.

As with any loan player, Barton would like to keep them if they’ve made a positive contribution, but it’s easier said than done. Some players are out of contract whilst others will hope to return to their parent clubs trying to get back into their plans.

The Memorial Stadium clash against Bolton, is potentially the last time we see some of these players in the blue and white quarters. Is there a chance we see any return? Here’s the latest feeling around the place…

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Defence is a big issue for the Gas, having shipped 70 goals this season with only Forest Green, Accrington, Morecambe and Burton conceding more than them. Despite their frailties at the back, Lewis Gibson has been a leader at the back and whilst it’s not been an injury free campaign, he’s played the most in any season. The on-loan Everton defender is open to stayingwith his contract up at the end of the season, but Barton admitted its up to Sean Dyche to decide, with relegation to the Championship making a deal unlikely.

Gibson has been partnered by Liverpool centre-back Jarell Quansah, who was signed to replace Bobby Thomas who joined Barnsley. Quansah’s move to the Mem was the first time he had left Anfield on loan. His loan can only be described as a learning experience given his red card against Portsmouth saw him miss three games. Quansah staying for another year hasn’t been spoken about too much by Barton or the player, and you’d expect him to get a different loan move next season.

He recently broke his run of 19 games without a goal, and now Josh Coburn will be relieved to reach double figures this season. Barton’s deemed the loan a success, and has suggested he could one day play for England. The Middlesbrough striker is someone Barton would want to stay, but the 20-year-old said he hopes to ‘hit the ground running’ when Michael Carrick sees him for the first time.

Another loanee is Lamare Bogarde, who’s arrival came as a surprise, but he has left an ever-lasting impression on supporters. He was signed on deadline day and announced at the eleventh hour, and before he joined he had been linked to Championship clubs Norwich City and West Brom. Barton wants to work with him again and Bogarde said he's 'fully enjoyed' his time here, and wit Villa watching on they might think familiar surroundings would be beneficial to his development.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ellery Balcombe is the final of five loanees, and whilst he’s had a difficult period, he wouldn’t be a bad back-up option. He’s not had it his own way and after being trialled ahead of James Belshaw, he just couldn’t get a win under his belt. His two games against Peterborough and Plymouth could hint perhaps that a return could be on the crds, if they can turn it in to a permanent deal.

Attention then turns to those who are out-of-contract with short-term signings Calum MacDonald and Grant Ward. Contracts have been offered to those whose deals expire but it’s unsure whether MacDonald will have been offered one. He hasn’t played many minutes because of the form of Lewis Gordon, but he made a good cameo appearance against Plymouth. Ward has started every game since joining from Blackpool, and Barton wants him to stay but there is transfer interest from their league rivals.

Harry Anderson, who has had a frustrating campaign because of injury is another player who's future is uncertain. Talks over a new deal were held before the New Year, but they came to an impasse. Anderson has admirers from newly-promoted Wrexham and other clubs, and could consider moving if he does not get a prominent role this season.

As for Anssi Jaakkola, Alex Rodman and Paul Coutts, there’s a belief that they have played their last game for the club. Rodman’s contract was extended by a year last summer but he hasn’t featured in any match-day squad this season, and his last match was against Barrow in August 2021.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Jaakola’s contract was similarly extended like Rodman, and he was a back-up goalkeeper to James Belshaw before the arrival of Ellery Balcombe, and then the recall of Jed Ward. He’s began a transition in to a coach, but should he want to continue playing may have to go elsewhere.

Club captain Coutts has been out since March after suffering a knee injury in training. It was on his ‘good knee’ and it ruled him out for the season right then. He’s been on ‘work experience’ with the coaching staff as Barton described it, but discussions will need to be held with his family in Scotland if he is to hang up the boots and become a coach.

Player-coach Glenn Whelan finds himself in a similar position to last year with his contract up. He was released but brought back before the start of the campaign and joined the coaching staff. The Republic of Ireland international has been a bit-part player, but wanted to continue playing on at 39-years-old. He’s a good experienced head to have around, but if Rovers are to be serious about next year they need him to be just a coach and not a player.

Josh Grant, is out-of-contract at the end of the season, but a new contract has been offered to him. The former Chelsea starlet has played just ten minutes this campaign, but after paying for his operation to rectify a long-term injury, there is a hope he will come back a better player in the summer.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.