The opening of the January transfer window is less than four weeks away and slowly but surely the time-honoured rumours surrounding potential acquisitions for Bristol City are beginning to drip through.
Although Nigel Pearson has, for now, tempered expectations about possible additions in 2022, CEO Richard Gould was up front about it last month when he revealed the club would be in the market for reinforcements given struggles in the league.
Finances will almost certainly be tight, and the club will have to be inventive regarding how they wish to do business but there does seem to be a will to get a few deals over the line, providing the targets fit a brief.
We’ve run the rule over four players who have been mentioned in conjunction with City since the start of November, determining the veracity of those claims and whether or not we should consider them as bona fide targets.
Craig Halkett (Hearts)
First reported: December 7
Football Insider have claimed City and Swansea are “eyeing a January move” for Hearts defender, and teammate of Taylor Moore, Craig Halkett, having made “regular checks” on the 26-year-old.
The centre-back is out of contract next summer and is in talks over extending his deal at Tynecastle but apparent interest south of the border has complicated those negotiations.
Halkett has been a solid performer for the Jambos over the last two-and-a-half seasons at Scottish Premiership and Championship level, making 83 appearances, but Bristol Live understands there is no desire from within Ashton Gate to sign the defender.
City do have scouting presence in Scotland and undoubtedly would have watched Halkett play, in tandem with checking on Taylor Moore’s progress in Edinburgh, however any move – whether it be on a free or a reduced fee in January – is unlikely.
City have Tomas Kalas, Nathan Baker and Rob Atkinson all under contract for the next 18 months, while Zak Vyner has emerged of late as a credible Championship centre-back option so that area of defence doesn’t appear a position of need, either.
Jake Bidwell (Swansea City)
First reported: December 6
Bidwell is another experienced defender who’s out of contract at the end of the season but, unlike Halkett, the Swans don’t seem to have much desire to offer the 28-year-old a new deal.
Since signing from QPR in the summer of 2019, Bidwell has been a regular at left-back, left wing-back and occasionally left-midfield showcasing his versatility and ability in the Championship.
The Swansea Independent – admittedly a fan-run site – claimed earlier this week that City and Birmingham City were interested in Bidwell and, at first glance, that would make a degree of sense.
Pearson is currently playing Callum O’Dowda as a left wing-back, with the 26-year-old’s injury issues unfortunately well-established. That has shifted Cam Pring down the pecking order, and then Jay Dasilva a further place; relegating the former England Under-21 international from near-automatic starter to third-choice.
Bidwell very much appears a Pearson-type player and would fit into the 3-5-2 systems he seems to have settled on. However, along similar lines to Halkett, there is no interest in the Swansea defender, whether that be for January or at the end of the season.
The latter aspect could change, as the season progresses, but it would seem fanciful to suggest that the Robins will be willing to pay a transfer fee and a offer medium to long-term contract who turns 29 in March.
Nesta Guinness-Walker (AFC Wimbledon)
Update reported: November 12
The AFC Wimbledon full-back has been a player reported in conjunction with Bristol City since the summer when first reported by the Daily Mail.
With the 22-year-old’s contract expiring in 2022, it was reported last month by London News Online that the League One club are hopeful of agreeing a new deal amid interest from further up the pyramid.
Guinness-Walker has made 16 appearances, with 11 starts, in the third tier this season, at left-back and left midfield, and with Wimbledon 17th may start to look up the food chain and consider his options.
Bristol Live is aware that the former Chelsea and Tottenham trainee is known to City and has been on a watchlist for some time but that doesn’t necessarily mean an approach is imminent
.He does, however, very much fit the Rob Atkinson/George Tanner-type model that Gould admitted last month was likely to be continued – finding younger players of value, with high potential ceilings.
Tom Flanagan (Sunderland)
First reported: November 9
Football Insider claimed a month ago that Bristol City, Preston North End and Middlesbrough were “in a race” to sign Norther Ireland international defender Flanagan at the end of the season when his contract expires.
Flanagan has made 17 appearances for Lee Johnson’s Black Cats this term and has been a League One-level player for much of his career but did earn the admiration of Italy assistant manager Gianluca Vialli following his performance against the Azzurri in a World Cup qualifier.
The 30-year-old has been one of Sunderland’s better-performing players in recent weeks in Johnson’s switch to a back three but, again, there is no interest from Bristol City in signing him.
Similar to the reports concerning Halkett and Bidwell, it would seem these sort of links are made to help boost a player’s profile, whether that be for the purposes of him earning a new contract or to force the hand of possible suitors.