Have Bristol Rovers Improved Since Joey Barton Was Sacked? – Opinion

Bristol Rovers sacked manager Joey Barton with the club in 16th in the table after having only recorded four wins at the time and looked to improve on last season’s finish. However, it’s up for debate whether this decision has paid dividends and if they find themselves better off under new management.

Rovers appointed Matt Taylor at the start of December after their month-long search for a new boss. His résumé is certainly impressive for a relatively new manager in the EFL: achieving promotion from League Two with Exeter City and most recently keeping Rotherham United in the Championship for a consecutive season. He was sacked in November with the Millers positioned 22nd in England’s second tier.

Taylor’s start at the Memorial Stadium could not have gone much better for himself, earning a nomination for League One manager of the month for December. The former professional guided the club to four victories in his first four weeks in charge including wins against title challengers Portsmouth and Bolton Wanderers.

The Pirates currently sit in 12th place and are closer to the relegation zone than they are to the top six. Inconsistency has been their downfall and 2024 has not been a kind year for them so far. Only two wins since the start of January have seen Bristol more or less stay in the same position but their distance to the top six has increased to double figures. A loss at home to a struggling Burton Albion side this weekend sums up their season of irregularity and missed opportunities to push on and challenge for a play-off place.

The recent January transfer window was fairly busy for the new man at the helm, signing four new players. Elkan Baggott, Harry Vaughan, and Brandon Aguilera all joined on loan until the end of the season while midfielder Kamil Conteh joined permanently from Grimsby Town in a deal worth £300,000.

Notably, their star-man and 2022/23 League One player of the season Aaron Collins was sold to highflyers Bolton for £750,000 which would no doubt cause heartbreak for fans of the club. Collins had three goals and nine assists so far this campaign and was an instrumental part of the club’s success in recent years.

With little expectation this season after their 17th-placed finish last year, Pirates’ fans would have bitten your hand off for a top-half finish which they are on track to attain. However, with missed opportunities to properly challenge for the play-off places, the club will be disappointed that there is not much to be excited about — for the moment in time at least.

Realistically, it’s been more of the same inconsistency for Rovers this campaign since Barton left although the club will be happier that they don’t have to deal with any erratic views from their new manager. With 15 games remaining, there’s no real danger of being relegated but there’s little hope of achieving promotion. So, from now until May, with little to lose, Rovers’ ambition should be just to remain as consistent as possible and cause a little bit of disruption for teams at both ends of the table.

The club does have a better chance of promotion to the Championship under Taylor though and if they can squash their inconsistencies for the 2024/25 campaign then they could be a side to look out for next year to challenge for a top-six position.

At the very least, their stability as a League One outfit will be secure and the man from Chorley’s achievements in both League Two and the Championship should put him in good stead to be successful with Bristol Rovers over the next few years.

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