A season to forget is a polite way of putting the miserable campaign endured by Bristol Rovers. The Gas endured a dismal season which saw them go through three managers and finish bottom of League One. The third manager to try his luck was Joey Barton. He has not held back on the state of the club, and he is making radical changes in the hopes of bringing success back to the Memorial Stadium.
Barton took over in February and managed just three league wins, ultimately failing to prevent their slide. In total, Barton collected just 11 points from 18 games in charge.
However, he will be given the tools to lead Bristol Rovers back to League One at the first attempt, and the changes so far have sent shockwaves around the club.
Joey Barton Begins Radical Changes at Bristol Rovers
A Dismal Campaign Prompts Change
Bristol Rovers were not expected to be among the sides struggling this season. Despite a worrying start to life under Ben Garner, he was given the tools to build a team. However, it was a team that ultimately led them to relegation.
They won just three of their first eleven league games, which prompted the club to dismiss Garner. Experienced manager Paul Tisdale replaced him, but in his three months in charge, he collected just three league wins.
Barton then outlined his plans to save the Gas during his interview, and his impassioned plan got him the job. However, his plan failed, and he hasn’t been shy about what he feels is wrong with the football club.
Their defence was an issue – only Northampton Town had a better defence out of the teams which finished in the bottom seven. It was goals, though, that proved to be a problem. They managed just 40 goals in their 46 league games – the worst in League One.
Unsurprisingly, a lack of goals contributed to their demise, and this will be an area Barton addresses as he gears up for his first transfer window.
The Revolution Begins
Following their defeat on the final day of the campaign to Blackpool, Barton made his intentions clear about the radical changes that were needed to get the club up to scratch.
His first port of call was to sack five members of the Bristol Rovers coaching team. Ben Garner’s former assistant Jack Mesure has departed, alongside goalkeeping coach David Coles, head of medical Services Miles Warren and head of sports science Alun Andrews.
Perhaps the most surprising is the dismissal of development squad manager, Lee Mansell. Mansell is a club icon, having helped the club to consecutive promotions during his three years as a player. He became a huge favourite with the fans and his dismissal came as a big surprise.
The only major coaching member to survive Barton’s cull was Kevin Maher. Maher has been with the club since 2019 and worked alongside Graham Coughlan. He has overseen the first-team on two separate caretaker spells, and he remains an important member of Barton’s team.
Barton is in the process of rebuilding his coaching team, having only brought Clint Hill and Andy Mangan with him when he first took over.
The 38-year-old’s radical changes have well and truly begun. He will no doubt be looking for the right people to help aid his vision for a bright future.
Playing Squad Ripped Apart
Unsurprisingly, Barton’s radical changes haven’t stopped at the coaching staff. The club has released several players following the culmination of the season.
Experienced figures Tom Davies, Michael Kelly, Mark Little, Kyle Bennett and Abu Ogogo are among the players culled by Barton. Others include Josh Hare, Ed Upson and Jordi Van Stappershoef.
The club has also lost Luke Leahy. The full-back rejected a new deal following their relegation and has subsequently signed for Shrewsbury Town. The first major blow for Barton in the end season period.
It is highly likely there will be further exits between now and the end of the summer transfer window as Barton builds a squad ready to challenge for promotion.
Speaking to the club website following the announced retained list, Barton said: “I would like to extend thanks to all those departing the football club, as we look to rebuild the playing squad for success next season.
“The process of identifying transfer targets is already underway and we are looking forward to building a squad capable of winning promotion out of Sky Bet League Two.”
The controversial manager faces a big task in transforming this squad into a winning side. Scars of relegation will be embedded on the players as well as a run of long defeats and difficulties in tasting victory. He faces his biggest task in management and while it is one he is relishing, it will be a huge challenge to turn them into a promotion contender next season.
Joey Barton Must Now Deliver
His radical changes have begun, and he’s done plenty of talking, but his actions have to match the promises he made. The changes must continue.
Building a team capable of securing promotion is his top priority. He needs to put together a team mixed with talent, youth and experience.
Actions speak louder than words and Barton has done a lot of both since his arrival. This will be his biggest managerial test yet, and he will face heavy criticism and if he doesn’t get this right.
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