With the January transfer window slamming shut, let’s take a closer look at comings and goings at Bristol Rovers.
It’s safe to say that few of us were expecting a particularly busy January. The rhetoric from previous manager Graham Coughlan, club officials, and even the CEO Martin Starnes himself was that of a “one in, one out” policy. We have reportedly been at our Financial Fair Play (FFP) Limit since the summer, meaning that we would have to offload high earning players in order to have room in the wage budget to bring anyone in. Many believed this to be a secondary factor for Coughlan’s departure to Mansfield Town, and no one was really anticipating Ben Garner to receive much backing either.
What we got instead was a very active window, with only a few players leaving and a plethora of fresh faces coming through the Mem gates. Garner was able to add width, pace, and creativity whilst also investing primarily in young talent with high sell-on potential. Additionally, managing to keep hold of Jonson Clarke-Harris will only be a huge boost to everyone at the club.
Striker, 22 years old
(Loan from Barnsley terminated)
The Barnsley youngster certainly came to the club with a lot of promise. At youth level, Adeboyejo boasted superior pace, strength, and skill, and many were hoping that he could add another dimension to our play. In truth, he seemed to be good at a lot of things, but not outstanding in any one attribute. In my opinion he was anonymous in the few games he started, and lacked any impact from the bench. In Victor’s defence, the style of football we deployed may not have suited him as a player, and returning him to his parent club was definitely the right decision for us.
Striker, 21 years old
(Loan from Sheffield United terminated)
In his first handful of games, both in pre-season and the early League One fixtures, Smith was a bright spark. His pace gave us a good outlet, and he partnered Clarke-Harris well, scoring a few goals and developing play on the counter quite well. However, as the season went on, his influence diminished and much like Adebojeo, his style of play did not match the direct brand of football we played. Returning him to Sheffield United was again the right call, particularly if we are changing to a one-striker formation under Garner.
Striker, 20 years old
(Released, signed for Hemel Hempstead Town)
Not much to say about Deon Moore other than his departure isn’t a huge surprise. When offered a contract in the summer there was definitely some apprehension about the deal, as it was over a month before the news broke that Moore had signed a contract with us, but given his lack of game-time it’s no great shock that he hasn’t been offered an extension. It’s safe to assume that Moore wasn’t on a huge wage, but this will have freed up some money at the very least.
Right Winger, 25 years old
(Sold to Gloucester City, undisclosed fee)
Probably one of the most baffling signings I can remember during my time watching Rovers. Having paid a decent fee to Aldershot back in January 2018, Mensah went on to make only 9 appearances for the Gas before being loaned out to various sides further down the footballing pyramid. He joins Gloucester City on a permanent deal after an undisclosed bid was accepted, suggesting we may even have recouped a small percentage of the fee we paid for him. Given that he never featured for the first team under three different managers, accepting the bid was a no-brainer move, and we have to move on and forget what was overall a bad signing for both us and Bernard, who will have seen this as his shot at league football.
Striker, 26 years old
(Loaned to Cheltenham Town)
Arguably the most talked about departure of the window. With six months remaining on his contract, this loan to Cheltenham Town is a clear indication that Nichols’ time at Rovers now seems to be an end. For whatever reason, it’s not worked out for Nichols at Rovers. Despite his hard work and attitude unfortunately 4 goals in 100-odd league games is not good enough for a striker at this level, regardless of any fee involved, and moving him on this window rather than in the summer is the best move for all parties. It’s safe to assume that Cheltenham will be covering a decent percentage of his wages, allowing us to bring in strikers on a lesser wage who can provide more of a goal threat. We can only wish Tom the best, and hope that he can re-find his form from his Exeter days and earn himself a decent contract somewhere else come June/July.
Right Winger/Attacking Midfielder, 20 years old
(Loaned from Derby County)
Mitchell-Lawson joined on loan from Derby County early in the window, providing us with some much needed width. His first league start against Coventry showed promise, with the youngster showing flashes of skill and using his explosive pace to cause problems and win several free kicks in attacking areas. With Rovers lacking pace out wide, Mitchell-Lawson looks a good addition who will fit in well with Ben Garner’s desired style of football. His pace and energy will hopefully help with pressing opposition defenders, and with pulling defenders out of position and opening space for other players to move into. He’ll also allow us to change shape to a formation with wingers, with only Alex Rodman and the out-of-favour Kyle Bennett able to play there previously.
Attacking Midfielder/Left Inside Forward, 21 years old
(Signed from Reading, undisclosed fee)
Barrett signed from Reading seemingly for a small compensation fee (plus sell on clause) given he only had six months remaining on his deal at the Madejski Stadium. Royals fans on Twitter were aggravated by the decision to sell Barrett, as they believed was a bright prospect for them who would break into the first team. However, they couldn’t begrudge him the move given his lack of game time under new manager Mark Bowen. The attacking midfielder is most comfortable in the #10 position behind the striker, but can also play on the left-hand side as a wide striker/inside forward. Much like Mitchell-Lawson, he gives us another dimension to our play, and hopefully will add creativity to the midfield whilst also providing cover out wide or up front. He arrives slightly unfit, and may take a few games to get going, but has shown some glimpses of impressive technical play in his few appearances.
Left Winger/Right Winger, 22 years old
(Loaned from Preston North End)
Having signed for Preston from Walsall last January, Ginnelly struggled to break into the North End first team at Championship level. At League One level, Ginnelly impressed at Walsall, linking up well with our very own Luke Leahy on the left-hand side. It’s no coincidence that after January, Walsall fell down the table and finished the season in the relegation zone, it’s safe to say that Ginnelly was missed at the Bescot. He is another winger who adds both pace and a goal-threat, and fits in to how Garner wants to play. In his few appearances he has looked bright, and will hopefully go on to be a useful loan signing for us.
Goalkeeper, 26 years old
(Loaned from Chelsea)
Few people would have expected us to sign a Goalkeeper this window, but after star-man Anssi Jaakkola dislocated his shoulder away at MK Dons the managerial team deemed it necessary to bring in more experienced man between the sticks rather than rely on 23 year-old van Stappershoef. Blackman comes with a wealth of experience, his communication and distribution seem to be of a high quality, and he is quick off his line to claim crosses and kill attacks. He looks a decent addition, and it’s no coincidence that the defence have looked much more solid since Blackman has come into the starting eleven.
Striker, 19 years old
(Loaned from Fulham)
Younger brother of Chelsea and England striker Tammy Abraham, Timmy certainly will want to break out from his brother’s shadow and prove what he can do at this level. Having never played senior football before, it will certainly be a baptism of fire, but the 6’1 striker brings strength and pace to the Rovers front-line and will act as a suitable backup/rotation option for star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, whose injury problems have left Rovers somewhat lightweight up top. Given that Adeboyejo, Smith, and Nichols have all left, Timmy is a welcome addition to the squad. And for those asking why the Abrahams would name their children Timmy and Tammy, their real names are Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham and Jason Timiebi Ogheneobrucheme Bakumo-Abraham. So a warm welcome to Jason.
Centre Back, 22 years old
(Signed from Swansea City, undisclosed fee)
Similar to the Barrett deal, it seems that with a short time left on his contract, Rovers have been able to pay a small fee to bring the young Centre-Back to the Memorial Stadium before the summer, perhaps beating other suitors who may have been interested. The 22 year old is a left-footed centre-half who boasts and impressive range of passing, and may suit Garner’s possession based style of play better than other centre-backs. With Tony Craig turning 35 before the season ends, Harries is definitely being brought in as his replacement ahead of time, which seems smart business. The former Welsh U21 international was on loan at Fortuna Sittard in the Eredivisie where he made 8 starts, even scoring against Feyenoord in a 3-1 win. This looks a great signing, and is another young lad in on a permanent deal that will hopefully have good sell-on potential.
Striker/Left Inside Forward, 20 years old
(Signed from Crystal Palace, undisclosed fee)
Unlike the other two permanent deals, Daly was midway through a long contract, so this seems to be a deal we’ve invested in with more weight. The 20 year old striker describes himself as very quick, and a strong finisher. Palace fans have said that he makes intelligent runs and has great positional awareness, along with being a deadly finisher from a range of positions. Given that he is six years Tom Nichols’ junior, this definitely seems a strong replacement who will fight to earn the #10 shirt at the Gas, and will hopefully go on to be a good goalscorer at this level. Much like Barrett, Palace fans seemed livid that their club had let go a top talent due to lack of game-time, and hopefully that’s something that Rovers can benefit from both on the pitch and financially.