Of the 11 first-team Bristol Rovers players out of contract at the end of June, Tom Davies is arguably the most contentious individual on the list.
Davies was a regular under Graham Coughlan, impressing with his physicality and organisation at the heart of the Gas defence before a series of injury problems cost him his place, with the former Portsmouth and Coventry centre-back undergoing surgery on both knees.
The last of his 22 appearances for the Gas was on February 1, 2020 and since then he’s slowly drifted from view, joining Barrow on loan in the new year where he has started 12 matches in League Two under Michael Jolley and Rob Kelly and largely impressing for the Bluebirds as they’ve maintained their status in the division.
With Rovers now preparing for life in the four tier, there is a strong argument to be made that a defender of Davies’ experience, calibre and character, not to mention proficiency at that level, should be retained and Bristol Live understands the 29-year-old wants to stay with the Gas.
Joey Barton’s predecessor Paul Tisdale revealed in the wake of Davies’ departure that it was primarily to build his match fitness up and his position at the Mem would be reviewed upon his return to BS7.
But from Barton’s point of view, given his injury concerns and the opportunity to open up spots in the squad, Davies could fall victim to the significant squad building that is likely to take place in north Bristol this summer.
From Kelly’s point of view, Davies’ arrival has been a success, especially given his long injury absence.
“He’s done great when he’s played,” he said. “He came having not really kicked a ball for the best part of a year, so for him to get a dozen appearances has been good.
“He’s one you have to manage, but get him on the pitch and he’s a leader, a warrior.
“Because of where we were and our necessities, and his commitment, we played him when we need to play him, and now he’s managing himself and we are as best we can.
“Football-wise and as a character, he ticks the box. He needs a run of games, I would say, now. He probably needs a pre-season.”
Given Davies’ north west roots, Barrow’s familiarity with his game and the possibility that he could be released, a permanent move to Holker Street makes sense.
But speaking ahead of Barrow’s final fixture against Exeter City, as Davies returns to the West Country, Kelly refused to be drawn on the situation.
“That’s a question I’d steer away from just now,” he added. “We’re assessing, reviewing, but in our own time.
“This season isn’t done yet. Although we’re starting to think about the process of appraising ourselves and everybody else, I think that’s to be done when the dust settles.
“Get this season done, everybody breathes for a few days and then we look at what we’ve learned and how we’re moving forward.”