Bristol Rovers' summer window is a marathon not a sprint and they're still making early strides

-Credit: (Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)
-Credit: (Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)


There was always going to be angst in abundance throughout the Bristol Rovers fanbase this summer with the club facing one of their most important transfer windows of recent years as a new-look recruitment structure lead what will end up having to be a squad overhaul.

Rovers released seven players and saw another six loanees return to their parent clubs at the end of last season meaning that, with a click of fingers, Matt Taylor's squad was 13 individuals lighter. That total could well rise further as the Gas continue to await decisions on the futures of Scott Sinclair, Luca Hoole and Jordan Rossiter who have been offered new contracts.

Additionally, players can still leave on loan or permanent deals with the current climate suggesting that Rovers will do well to keep hold of Antony Evans this summer, with promoted Portsmouth understood to be among those keeping tabs on the Gas' Player of the Season.

There is no sugar coating it, this is a hefty job that has to be done right ahead of Taylor's first full season in charge and what looks set to be the toughest League One in some while. However, that doesn't mean that supporters should be getting concerned with the fact that the Gas are yet to make a signing.

I get it, as a football fan you're never patient and because this summer window is of particular importance, we all want reassurance that the cogs are in motion behind the scenes. There has been no public communication from George Friend in his role as Director of Football since the Fan's Q&A back in March while Head of Data and Analysis Adam Mahoney was thought to be a key player in this new recruitment structure, but surprisingly announced his departure from the club a month ago.

It also doesn't calm any nerves when you see rivals signing players, particularly Rotherham United who have already added six new faces to their roster before June with Jonson Clarke-Harris, Sean Raggett and Joe Rafferty particularly eye-catching additions. But, in all fairness, the budget the recently-relegated side will have to play with as well as their ambitions for this campaign are of a completely different ilk to Rovers and they aren't the sort of exemplar Gasheads should be too concerned about. They are also in League One but, with respect, that's probably as far as the title 'rival' can stretch.

Former Bristol Rovers striker and transfer target Jonson Clarke-Harris re-signed for Rotherham earlier this month -Credit:Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Former Bristol Rovers striker and transfer target Jonson Clarke-Harris re-signed for Rotherham earlier this month -Credit:Tony Marshall/Getty Images

On that note, at the time of writing only 13 players have been signed by League One clubs with six of those headed for the New York Stadium, almost half. Mansfield Town have made two additions while Wycombe Wanderers, Peterborough United, Stevenage, Stockport County and Wigan Athletic have made one each. Rovers are therefore one of 17 clubs, 70 per cent of the league, yet to conduct any business.

Meanwhile, as we know money talks and Rotherham are offering some of the most competitive salaries in the division. For Rovers, they don't have the same fiscal capabilities as the recently-relegated Millers and, where they are positioned in the economic order of the division, means that unless they are trying to sign a player nobody else wants (which is unlikely), such is the competition, there's a degree of having to wait your turn.

Steve Evans' side are also among the favourites for promotion, which also plays a part, of course, particularly when it comes to the more blue chip free agents such as Raggett and Rafferty who have just experienced such with Portsmouth and, ideally, want to repeat it again.

You don't win any prizes for being the first to make a signing and the start of pre-season is still over a month away with Rovers players expected to report back to The Quarters on July 1. Furthermore, the transfer window doesn't officially open for a fortnight, with the first day June 14.

The understanding is that the majority, if not all, of Rovers' players are currently out of the country on holiday and you would expect that the same applies to the majority of the prospects they're courting. As Taylor said in his end of season interview, "nothing happens in May."

Albeit with an alternative recruitment structure and manager in charge, the Gas didn't make a signing until June 23 last summer with the arrival of James Wilson and they went on to bring in a total of 12 players, 13 if you include the acquisition of Chris Martin after the window had shut.

James Wilson was Bristol Rovers' first signing last summer and didn't arrive until late June -Credit:Tom Sandberg/PPAUK
James Wilson was Bristol Rovers' first signing last summer and didn't arrive until late June -Credit:Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Taylor has insisted that he would like as many new faces through the door as possible for the start of pre-season to give him as much time as possible to gel together his new-look squad but it's almost certain that the way the squad looks on day one of pre-season will still look different at 11:01pm on August 30 when the window shuts.

The rate at which impatience is growing amongst supporters probably hasn't been helped by the fact that the season ended traditionally early with it already over a month since the final day defeat to Wigan Athletic but the EFL campaign only concluded on Sunday. Even though most supporters were delighted to see the back of the 2023/24 season, that brief period of being glad the football is over has now perished and widespread focus has been turned to the upcoming campaign for a couple of weeks now, hence the restlessness.

Additionally, with it over a month since the end of the season and still a couple of weeks until the transfer window opens and, with this being a tournament summer, the Euros starting, we're currently in that hiatus where conversations between football fans are fuelled by scraps with there being a news vacuum during this period. So, when there's no news, the time is filled by voicing frustrations that there haven't been any fresh indications of a positive season to cling onto. It happens every year and it's certainly not exclusive to Rovers with every other fanbase in League One whose club hasn't yet made a signing (over half) demonstrating the same itch for any sign of a fresh update.

It may be tricky for many but, whether you like it or not, you've got to trust the process and have an element of patience because we're still over a month away from the start of pre-season and two-and-a-half months away from a ball being kicked competitively. However, if a signing hasn't been made by July 1, you can all come back to me and I'll happily eat humble pie.

Although there hasn't been an official announcement to confirm it, work has very much been taking place behind the scenes with the likes of Joe Edwards and Miguel Freckleton names linked while there was an initial interest in Ronan Curtis who has since stayed in League Two by signing for Port Vale.

Generally a summer transfer window is a lengthy process but this summer in particular the recruitment procedure is a marathon not a sprint with an overhaul of players required that suggests the Gas will be close to, if not in excess of the double digit mark when it comes to the number of signings made come the end of August. Taylor admitted that his squad won't be as deep as it was last season but that doesn't meant there's still a large number of new faces that need to come through the door.

One of Rovers' best pieces of business last summer was a process that required particular patience in the permanent signing of Connor Taylor. In some ways, the Gas were monitoring their former loanee for over a year but reports of their interest started to emerge as early as June with it then two months until the deal was done. Straightforward transfer negotiations are always welcome but are a rarity.

Again, that reinforces the point that this will very much be a marathon and, just because a few other clubs have made early headway, it has to be remembered that Rovers are still putting together their first strides and nothing is going to be rushed. It's football's rarest entity, but patience is what is required at this moment in time.