The verdict on the U23s’ out of contract players


With the summer approaching, a number of contracts will be coming to an end and decisions will be made in the coming weeks.

The first-team have several contract decisions to make – all of which have been covered brilliantly by Joe from Rovers Analytics (linked at the end) – and the same can be said for the U23s.

Inspired by Joe’s piece, and thanks to Jaquob Crooke who identified the out of contract players, I’ve taken a look at what we can expect from the contract decisions involving the U23s.

All statistics are correct at the time of writing.

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Louie Annesley

Known more to Rovers fans for his international exploits with Gibraltar than his time with the U23s, Annesley has progressed well over the last year after the likes of Hayden Carter, Joe Grayson and Tyler Magloire headed out on loan.

He is still only 20 years old, and added to the aforementioned progress he has made over the last 12 months, I’d expect Louie to be offered a new deal. A loan could be the next step in his development.


Dan Pike

One of the more obvious outcomes in this list, Dan Pike simply has to remain with the club.

Since his impressive performances in the FA Youth Cup run last season, he made the step up to the U23s with such ease and has already been involved with the first team this season – and a debut is surely around the corner for the youngster. Could he be our second-choice right-back for the first team if Ryan Nyambe departs this summer?



Sam Barnes

Centre-back Barnes has been a key figure in Billy Barr’s side this season, leading the side as captain.

He has been previously namechecked by Tony Mowbray and only recently turned 20 years old. With his talent clear to see, and Carter and/or Magloire set to be involved with the first team next season, I expect to see Sam put pen to paper on another deal.


Lewis Thompson

Before February, I would have said another deal is likely to be on the cards for Thompson due to his regular involvement and positive performances for the U23s.

However, the rise of Lenni Rae Cirino (who we’ll discuss soon) and the fact Thompson has only featured once since then (a substitute appearance against Tottenham) means his future is in the balance.

He’s 21 now and is yet to make his debut for the first-team, whilst Harry Pickering is going to become the first-choice left-back, and therefore Thompson’s chances will be limited. I can see him departing this summer, which disappoints me slightly as he always looked a talent.


Joe Grayson

Aged 22, Grayson is struggling for game time out on loan at League One side Oxford, and it feels like his time with the club is coming to an end.

The unfortunate injury-hit year he had last year did not do his chances any good, and now behind Carter and Magloire in the pecking order, I don’t expect him to be offered a new contract in the summer.


Lenni Cirino

Cirino is into the second year of his scholarship and aged just 18, he has comfortably made the step up into the U23s since the turn of the year.

He has shown he is capable against players four of five years his senior, and it is expected he will make the left-back spot his own in Billy Barr’s side over the next couple of seasons. A definite stayer for me.


Sam Durrant

Still only 19 years old, Durrant has looked at home in the U23s this season, playing on the right hand side of the front three.

With a few goal involvements to his name, and an especially impressive run of form since the New Year, I’d expect the talented winger to be offered an extension to the professional deal he signed last summer.



James Connolly

After an injury hit season last year, Connolly had his scholarship extended by a further year.

Unfortunately, he has only made seven appearances across the U18 and U23 sides this season (with four coming off the bench), and an extended stay at Ewood Park does not look likely for James.


Brad Lyons

A tough decision surrounding Lyons. He was electric in the first half of the season for the U23s, scoring six goals in eight matches, and he was part of the first team squad for the win over Millwall. He’s also been unlucky with injuries during his loan spell at Morecambe, impressing before coming off early in his first start.

However, he turns 24 next month and with the likes of Jared Harlock and Joe Nolan progressing well in the U23s, I get the feeling Lyons will depart the club after two seasons here.


Stefan Mols

Mols was a promising player for the U23s for several years and made his senior debut in the Checkatrade Trophy in the 2017-18 season, but he couldn’t make the permanent step up following that – where the likes of Lewis Travis and then John Buckley successfully did so.

His loan spell with third tier Spanish side CF Intercity did not go well at all, and he had a trial period with Burnley U23s earlier this year.

Mols has been a strong player in the development sides over the years, but aged 22, his future now lies elsewhere.


Ben Paton

Paton has struggled with injuries during his time at Rovers, and he hasn’t reached double figures in appearances for the U23s in any season, highlighting the issues he has had.

With just two appearances to his name since mid-November, and the rise of other midfielders, I expect Paton to depart the club this summer.


Jalil Saadi

A player capable of playing in both the centre of defence and midfield, Saadi has been a regular this season for the U23s and is one to most certainly look out for.

He should be a definite stay for me, and aged 19, he still has plenty of time to develop. Also, Rovers have an extension option in his deal so that is likely be taken up at the very least.



Tom White

His future is all but confirmed. White is currently on loan at Hartlepool, and both he and Dave Challinor (the Pools manager) have spoke previously about making his time there permanent in the summer.

He’ll be off in the summer without making an appearance for the first team.


Sam Burns

Burns has looked comfortable since making the permanent step up from the U18s, and with six goals to his name this season, Rovers will be keen to tie him down to the club again.

A first team opportunity could be around the corner for Burns in the final few fixtures, with his playing style most similar to that of Adam Armstrong. Let’s hope he takes the chance – if it comes – because we could have a real talent on our hands.


Thanks for reading. Follow our account dedicated to Rovers’ U23 and U18 sides. All the latest updates, news and match content will be posted there before anywhere else so make sure you’re following: @academy_rovers.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?: Verdict on out of contract Rovers players ( | Rovers Analytics on Twitter: @AnalyticsRovers

Jaquob Crooke on Twitter: @JaquobC

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