Bristol Rovers’ transfer business so far this summer can be broadly split into two parts: recruiting leadership and experience plus the need to free up space in the wage bill, either via the retained list of the release of Max Ehmer.
However, the Gas’ interest in loaning Stoke City’s Connor Taylor doesn’t fit in either camp as the teenager is a largely unknown quantity beyond the confines of the bet365 Stadium but could bring another dimension to the Rovers backline.
The 19-year-old also doesn’t conform to the slightly mistaken idea that Barton will only be recruiting players either in their peak years or above; that is, ready-made first-team footballers.
Taylor has made one appearance for the Potters and spent time on loan at non-league Chester and Ashton United last season but the bulk of his minutes have been in youth grade football and with the Under-23s.
To get the full lowdown on Taylor, we spoke to Stoke City correspondent Pete Smith of the Stoke Sentinel…
How highly is he rated at Stoke and why do they want to loan him out?
Very. He only joined from Stafford Rangers in 2019 and coaches have been impressed at the rate of his development. He’s clearly ready to be tested beyond under-23s football.
Stoke have got a strong little conveyor belt going for centre-halves at the moment. Harry Souttar and Nathan Collins have already stepped up to the first team, Will Forrester made his debut on the last day of the season and Taylor is ticking all the boxes too.
He made his debut earlier this year against Coventry, how did you rate his performance?
He was chucked in at the deep end due to an injury crisis against a side who were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Championship.
He very nearly scored but it was a tough night at the other end and probably showed the value of getting a bit more experience under his belt.
What sort of centre-back is he?
He’s a big lad, quick and comfortable on the ball. He can really put his stamp on the game. He’s got a knack of being able to stride out of defence and he’s difficult to shake.
What are his biggest strengths and what areas of his game does he most need to improve on?
He’s got all the right physical attributes for a centre-half so it’s about honing everything. He can and should be commanding in one penalty area and a real nuisance in the other.
It might help that he’s big and blonde but you rarely watch a match where he passes by without notice. That can probably work both ways as a defender and he’ll have to make sure he does all the basics right consistently.
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Would you consider him ready for League Two?
It was pretty clear pretty quickly that he was ready for a level or two higher than Chester, where he went on loan last winter.
So this seems like it would be a winner for all parties.
It’ll be a good test as the next stage of his development to have proper matches week in, week out and if he’s as good as we think he can be, Rovers will have fun watching him prove it.
Do you know what sort of character he is?
Coaches have said he’s a decent sponge who is eager to keep improving himself. He’s ready to take himself out of any comfort zone, like with loan moves.