Transfer deadline day was unusually busy for Rovers fans this year, as The Gas made two permanent signings and retained the services of star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris – much to the surprise of many.
It’s clear to see a new strategy of developing young talent is being adopted in our recruitment, as both of these signings are under the age of 23. Whilst this could be a positive move, there isn’t a great deal of information out there about these players.
In order to resolve this, I took to social media and hunted down a couple of knowledgeable football supporters to give me the low-down on our new acquisitions.
A centre-back was the last position many Gasheads expected to see come through the door, but never-the-less Swansea City defender Cian Harries has arrived on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
The 22 year old had been with Swansea City since 2017, when he was signed from Coventry for an undisclosed fee.
His time at Coventry started having been released at the age of 14 by Aston Villa. He progressed through their youth academy and made his league debut in May 2016, before making the switch to Swansea City the following year.
GasCast spoke with Coventry City fan Dominic Jerams, who gave some more information on his breakthrough at the club:
“He was really highly rated at a young age but seen as not physically ready for men’s football. However, he ended up having to play because we had a summer where basically all of our transfer targets fell through. He looked really good on the ball and reading the game in his first few games but was getting bullied every other week, so he was eventually taken out the side once we got a few loan players in”.
So a positive start for Cian at Coventry. But how did he end up leaving the club for Swansea City if he was showing so much promise?
“He barely played after that because the managers were a bit scared to throw in a skinny young centre back into a relegation battle but he got a few games on our way to winning the Checkatrade Trophy – including one where he marked Akinfenwa out of a game.
We ended up selling him because Robins wanted to beef the squad up with experience in League Two. Ironically, he is now the kind of ball-playing centre back that would fit right in to the current team.”
And whilst Dominic wasn’t surprised to see Cian leave, he did find it frustrating:
“He’s really composed on the ball, can pass long or short very confidently and reads the game well. It’s only his physical strength that has held him back thus far. It was slightly annoying that we couldn’t find a place for someone so clearly talented but he was clearly not quite ready so it wasn’t a blow to lose him.
I don’t remember there being too much interest in him but the step up a few levels demonstrates that other clubs were aware of his potential. Had we not gone down to League Two, we could have been more patient with him and gradually broke him into the first team.“
And the most important question is, does he think he’s got what it takes to prove a good signing at The Memorial Stadium?
“The talent is clearly there, he’s one of the best centre backs I’ve seen on the ball, once he gets a run of 15-20 games under his belt I think he’ll really come into his own. He’s got all the potential he just needs to settle down and play football.”
20 year old James Daly had been with Crystal Palace since under-14 level, and signed a professional contract in June 2019.
Whilst he did not make an appearance for Palace, he was named on the bench against AFC Bournemouth in 2018, and in several further fixtures over the recent festive period.
There isn’t much in terms of senior experience to look at in order to gauge what kind of player we are signing – a loan spell at Kingstonian his only taste so far. However, his prolific form in front of goal for the Palace youth and development sides can provide Gasheads with a reason to be optimistic.
And if that isn’t enough for you, fear not. We had the pleasure of speaking with Crystal Palace supporter Harry Thripp – who was disappointed to see James leave:
“We are frustrated. On the back end of last season and particularly at U21 level he proved a vital asset and at times it did seem he’d break into the first team. When he played he looked great, at times obviously not up Premier League standard but by no means warranting him being sold.
I felt like he could be a Palace striker, and a loan spell could have proven good, but a permanent is a disappointment and a waste of an opportunity when we had a player of that ability on the payroll. Especially given the state of Palace and their lack of strikers or even players. He will be missed and I do feel in a good five years we will have learnt the hard way why we shouldn’t have gotten rid of him.”
It sounds like Rovers have managed to pick up a promising young talent, but what attributes in particular will we see from James at The Gas?
“The main attribute for James is the most ideal one, his shooting. Often when we saw him play for the U23s he was never fearful in terms of opposition and never afraid to have a go, he’s got a hell of a left foot and can score from just about anywhere. Obviously the opposition he’ll be playing now is a step up but I doubt it will make too much of a difference, the confidence in the young man is a very positive thing.
The team he was in was often changing and the thing we found is no matter who he played with he had a good connection with most players and therefore can slot into Bristol Rovers team and make an instant impact”
Thank you again Harry for taking the time to speak with us. You can find him on Twitter.
These signings are a show from Rovers that we are moving in a different direction. Picking up talented but relatively unknown players and developing them is not a unique strategy in football, but one we are not used to.
This may take time, but it is in my opinion a step in the right direction to delivering a sustainable future for the club. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say, I’m excited to see what the two lads can give us on the pitch!