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'I've made a mistake' - Barton dismisses Trevor Clarke's career with Bristol Rovers two months after contract renewal

Barton says he doesn’t ‘trust’ the former Shamrock Rovers defender, and has told him to find a new club just weeks after extending his contract.

Joey Barton.
Joey Barton.
Image: PA

BRISTOL ROVERS MANAGER Joey Barton has blithely dismissed Trevor Clarke’s future at the club – just two months after the club gave the former Shamrock Rovers defender a new, two-year contract at the club. 

Clarke signed a new contract at the club two months ago, a renewal Barton now describes as a “mistake”, saying he doesn’t “trust” Clarke and has sent him to train away from the first-team, and told he has no future at the club. 

“Unfortunately, we extended his deal and sometimes you’ve got to be very quick to recognise and I hold my hands up. I’ve made a mistake on that one, I shouldn’t have brought him back in”, said Barton. 

Clarke, capped at Irish U21 level under Stephen Kenny back in 2019, joined Rotherham from Shamrock Rovers in the same year but was tormented by injury, suffering a knee injury in a training game on the day his signing was due to be announced. He made 17 league appearances for the club before joining Bristol Rovers ahead of the 2021/22 season, signing a one-year deal with the option of another, one-year extension. 

When he helped the club achieve a dramatic promotion to League One, they responded by offering Clarke a new, two-year contract, doubling the option they had initially agreed. Two months after the club handed Clarke that contract, however, manager Barton has frozen the defender out. He is one of three players who have been told to train away from the first team, along with Zain Westbrooke and Alex Rodman. 

This is despite the fact Clarke started Bristol Rovers’ first game of the season at left-back, with rivals for that position absent. (Josh Grant endured an injury-hit pre-season, while Nick Anderton has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma.) 

Clarke played more than an hour of the opening-day defeat to Forest Green Rovers, but wasn’t in the squad for last Saturday’s 4-0 win against 10-man Burton Albion. Speaking ahead of that game, Barton wrote off Clarke’s career at the club, saying he didn’t “trust him”, claiming he couldn’t play the passing game he wants. 

bristol-rovers-v-scunthorpe-united-sky-bet-league-two-memorial-stadium Trevor Clarke celebrates Bristol Rovers' promotion last season. Source: PA

“He’s a good kid,” Barton told reporters, including Bristol Live. “He just can’t play the position how I want it played. Last year, we didn’t see a lot of him due to his physical state.

“He came in this summer after the back end of the season and he got the bit between his teeth and he was saying he really wanted to get after it in the summer and the off-season. He’s come back in and he’s had a lot of reps because we’ve been light in that position with Josh (Grant) being unavailable.

“For me, he just doesn’t fill me with trust going forward. If I’m honest, I don’t trust him. I don’t think he’s the right component for us. We want to pass out, we want to play, and he’s not that type of full-back.

“Unfortunately, we extended his deal and sometimes you’ve got to be very quick to recognise and I hold my hands up. I’ve made a mistake on that one, I shouldn’t have brought him back in. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t have done that, but we have and we’ve got to find a solution, firstly for Trev and, obviously, for the club.

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“I don’t think he’ll have a problem. I think there will be many suitors for him. He’s obviously done well in the League of Ireland and he could pop back out there, but that will be somebody else’s problem and he won’t go forward with us.

“I’ve been telling Trev all summer ‘I don’t trust you, you’re doing stuff in training, you’re not doing what I’m asking you do to, your retention of information I’m struggling with because how many times am I going to show you?’ He’s not 17 or 19, he’s 24 so at some point the penny has got to drop and after doing a year’s worth of work with him last year I just got to the point where we need to pull up stumps here and just draw a line under it.

“It’s not fair on him because he had a similar theme at Rotherham where he’s not played minutes, he’s had a similar theme here where he has not played minutes.

“He could go back home. His family is in Ireland and he could probably play in the League of Ireland, he’s probably got enough ability to play there. He might get another opportunity in England, I don’t know.

“But putting someone in the team like Westy and Trev, who you don’t trust, is not fair on them. We have to put them in because we’re light on bodies and they also know that you don’t trust them and they also know that their fans don’t trust them.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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