Promising Stoke City defender Connor Taylor has emerged as a defensive option for Bristol Rovers this summer with the 19-year-old available on a season-long loan.
Bristol Live understands that Taylor, who has been playing for the club’s Under-23 side, is one of the defensive targets being considered by the Gas but there is strong competition from within League One.
Joey Barton is continuing his rebuild of the Gas and is keen to add several more players to his squad, ideally before the end of the month, with Paul Coutts, Harry Finley, Nick Anderton and Mark Hughes signing in May.
Barton wants another central defender to join the experienced Hughes in that department, with Alfie Kilgour, Jack Baldwin, Cian Harries, Max Ehmer and, to a lesser extent, George Williams on the books in that position, while young Pablo Martinez could also migrate from midfield over time.
However, Ehmer is likely to leave north Bristol this summer following a thoroughly underwhelming campaign after signing from Gillingham, with the 29-year-old also Rovers’ highest-earner so moving him on frees up salary space.
The futures of Harries and Williams are also uncertain, due to Barton’s wish for a certain type of character and/or style of centre-back, which could lead him to former England Schoolboys’ international Taylor.
Rovers are an agreeable option for Stoke to send the defensive talent due to the connection established following Harry Souttar’s loan to Fleetwood for 18 months across the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.
Under the tutelage of Barton and particularly assistant Clint Hill, Souttar enjoyed an outstanding campaign in the north west, an experience that has helped shape him into a top-level Championship centre-back now being considered for a Premier League move.
The feeling within the bet365 Stadium is that Taylor, who is a tall, ball-playing centre-back who likes to bring the ball into midfield, could follow a similar path as his first-team opportunities in the Potteries for 2021/22 are limited at present.
Taylor, who signed from Stafford Rangers in 2019 and was rewarded with a new contract in February, made one Championship appearance for Stoke last season, against Coventry on April 21 as he replaced James Chester in the 17th minute in a 3-2 defeat.
His only previous senior experience has been on loan at Northern Premier League side Ashton United and Chester in the National League North.
Chester’s joint manager Anthony Johnson said of the centre-back in January, “We have talked to him about being aggressive. I think when people hear that word they think it means elbowing people and slide-tackling all over the pace.
“But being aggressive is about stepping out with the ball, passing with a real purpose and being aggressive with your movements on set pieces.
“He has looked like a 30-year-old centre back who has been playing for 12 years not someone that has just been dropped in for their debut. He looks like a real prospect for Stoke.”
Meanwhile, Gloucestershire Live have reported that Rovers are now “clear favourites” to sign Barnsley winger Luke Thomas on loan for the season.
The 22-year-old former Cheltenham Town forward, whose family are from the Forest of Dean, has struggled to earn a first-team place at Barnsley since Valerian Ismael joined the club.