After the Wales trouble and Barton’s Bristol Rovers explosion, Aaron Collins knows exactly where he stands

Aaron Collins will watch Wales’ Euro 2024 game against Croatia on Saturday in comforting surroundings, but unlike most fans who dream of being in the thick of the action, the Bristol Rovers striker gets to watch the proceedings with a hint of of regret because, for a while, it was a realistic possibility for him.

There is a widely held theory among some in the Rovers hierarchy that despite all of Collins’ spectacular achievements in front of goal this season, and even if he has calmed down at the wrong time, 15 goals and 11 assists in 37 appearances are still impressive. Numbers: He’s been affected by where he plays most of his football.

Not Rovers or League One, to a degree, though Barton noted that players have to “catch themselves on fire” in the third tier to really get noticed, but the modest confines of the Mem, because scouts who have reviewed it for range of the Welsh FA conclude that, yes, it’s all very well to do this in front of 9,500 people in North Bristol, but how can it be adapted to crowds of 30,000+ internationally?

It’s a stark assessment that stands up to some degree as Nathan Broadhead, nine goals and two assists in 33 games for Wigan and Ipswich, was selected, with the belief that Portman Road pressure and a promotion battle makes the move. be a bit short. But then again, there’s also the fact that six of Tom Lockyer’s 14 caps for Wales have been won while he regularly played in the same stadium as Collins, including his debut in 2017.

At the very least, he now knows a little more about what is required of him. The World Cup skip (if that’s the correct term given he’s never been in the team before) came during one of their purple patches, but Rob Page would have been a great call to have included an untested and untested striker. for Wales. first tournament appearance in 64 years.

The timing has proven unfortunate for Collins, but clearly his run of just three goals and two assists in 13 games since the turn of the year hasn’t forced his name into the conversation with enough volume.

Croatia and Latvia on Tuesday can be tough watches but, at the same time, for Rovers and Collins that discussion is over and the 25-year-old can focus on ending the season for Gas in the way that was once defining. his campaign

With nine games remaining, even with the toughest schedules among the bottom half of League One, the target of 20 goals and 15 assists is plausible. And once the noise has died down, which Barton believes has affected his performances, there can be a clarity of thought.

Without going over the events of last Tuesday and the manager’s subsequent explanation of why he was so disappointed in his number 10, a line seems to have been drawn underneath it all and speaking after the loss to Portsmouth, Barton was keen to emphasize the strong relationship of job. he enjoys his star striker.

“It’s tricky when the big headline comes out, and I know you have to sell papers, ‘stripped the captaincy,’ and that hits back,” Barton said. “Luckily for me, I have a very good working relationship with him and they can’t strip you of a captaincy that you never really had.

“Paul Coutts had been the captain since the beginning of the season and then Sam Finley. Aaron had been the talisman of the team and when those guys were missing, I felt it was only right that he was given the chance. It’s been well documented and we talked about it. he lost that privilege to me because of what happened on Tuesday night, but he was never going to make the team.

Aaron Collins and Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton (Will Cooper/JMP)

“I just felt his performances on the bracelet… some people grow up and find another level and I really don’t think Aaron really did that. Even if I look back on the Morecambe game and beyond. And sometimes the things you do before of the match, being the captain, he can distract people.

“I spoke to him and I said it hasn’t really affected your game, I think you have to realize that if you’re our captain there are certain things that are required of you and certainly after Tuesday night he’s very clear what is not required of him and taking the material piece from him was the mentality; just let it go and focus on his game and get ready.

“I had a good talk with him in the morning and we have a very good working relationship. The performance levels from him (against Portsmouth) were better, although he’s still not firing on all cylinders.”

To allow for that process again, his engine has evidently needed a cooldown as its sharpness and explosiveness have been lacking, not then, but over the course of games where Collins continually had the ability to make something out of nothing for the players. rovers. and leading from the front, though he still can’t be considered a major figure.

That trait, along with his popularity in the team, is what drew Barton to handing over the captaincy to him in the absence of Paul Coutts and Sam Finley, and the latter would reclaim the armband from Lewis Gibson provided he makes it to Friday’s friendly against Aston. Villa in Bodymoor Heath. unscathed.

It may be a friendly, but Collins will no doubt relish the prospect of playing against standard Premier League defenders as another benchmark of his development which, when you consider his arrival at Rovers in the summer of 2021, is quite remarkable. .

He can’t sit still and Collins needs to get back to his devilish best, but so do Rovers, due to a growing collective drought in front of goal that has led to John Marquis’ early header against Burton Albion being the only time. they have raped an opposing goalie in the last seven games at Mem.

The quality of chances he receives or creates for himself is likely affected by his slightly deeper placement, as Barton has recently favored two forwards in Marquis and Josh Coburn, but volume-wise he’s still producing with five. shots against Portsmouth and three. in the Wycombe Wanderers performance.

As the season finale approaches, it’s also hard to ignore the elephant in the room and what summer might bring.

It’s a bit irrelevant to discuss it right now given what could happen in these remaining nine games and how that affects his market value (and the Swansea chat that has easily circulated as something of a mitigating factor in his drop in performance, to the point that a young man sitting behind the press box on Saturday was even speaking of it as fact, it’s just unsubstantiated rumour), but with scouting firmly underway and recruitment plans in the works, Rovers will be in for a Budget calculated with Collins on the team. , and another without. And the last figure will be considerably higher than the first.

As detailed in the minutes of the board meeting in January, Rovers had spent over £537,000 this season, much of it on their playing budget, with losses on the next set of accounts likely to be in the region of £3 million to £3.5 million; that range was cited by CEO Tom Gorringe on the What the Footie podcast earlier this month.

There is no indication that Collins wants to leave per se, as he himself said in January, although situations change very quickly in football, but based on Barton’s considerable ambitions for this team and the financial landscape in which he has to operate , it is fair to conclude. they might be in a position where they can’t afford not to sell it, provided of course a suitable asking price is reached.

As mentioned, what exactly that is will be determined, in part, during the frenetic 31 days when Gas return to League One action; Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and Plymouth Argyle represent three of the best four teams in the division, with at least one, perhaps two, playing in the Championship next season.

Barton was visibly upset by the concept that Rovers’ season is winding down so there is nothing tangible to play for, which may prove true to a degree, albeit with a target of 52 points to be achieved. in one more day between them and the team. the bottom four. But for a number of individuals on his squad, whether playing for contracts and increasingly for their own futures due to Barton’s scrutiny of their performances at this level, there are nine chances to show the points they need.

You get the feeling that after the Wales disappointment, and whether or not it affected his performance for Rovers, he evidently hasn’t been scoring with the same speed or intensity, and with a very public knuckle bang from His trainer. standards, this final leg of the season means a lot to Aaron Collins.

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