'I don’t care who you are' - Joey Barton adopts hard-line stance with Bristol Rovers striker and former Portsmouth target that includes final warning

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Aaron Collins has been stripped of the Bristol Rovers captaincy head into Saturday’s game against Pompey.

There’s also a chance the Gas’ top scorer will be dropped for the visit of the Blues as boss Joey Barton adopts a no-nonsense approach with the forward.

Barton was provoked after the 15-goal frontman – who was linked with a move to Fratton Park last summer – was adjudged to have shirked out of a challenge against Wycombe in midweek.

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The Memorial Stadium manager has also taken umbrage with the 25-year-old’s performances in recent games as talk of a potential Wales call-up materialised.

That never happened, though, with Collins left out of Robert Page’s latest get-together.

Instead, the fans’ favourite will remain at Rovers, who are looking to consolidate their mid-table position in League One.

But it won’t be business as usual, with Barton also warning Collins had he’s had his last chance.

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Speaking to Bristol World, Barton said: ‘I think he (Collins) will be fine, it’s just whether I pick him. It’s the reality.

Bristol Rovers forward Aaron Collins was linked with a move to Pompey last summer    Picture: Harry Trump/Getty ImagesBristol Rovers forward Aaron Collins was linked with a move to Pompey last summer    Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images
Bristol Rovers forward Aaron Collins was linked with a move to Pompey last summer Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images

‘He certainly won’t be captaining the team because he’s lost that privilege. I think it’s a real privilege to lead the club and he’ll learn the hard way.

‘There’s a level of performance and commitment that you owe to the history of this football club when you take on that leadership role on a match day.

‘Hopefully, he puts himself in a position where he learns his lesson and we never tell him again.

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‘Knowing the type of lad he is, it will have hurt him. He does certainly give his all. I just feel in the last two games, maybe the noise and the outside world affect his performance, I’ve got to make sure very quickly that stops.

‘Aaron has been a major source of goals and inspiration for us and, certainly in the last two games, I’m not sure whether he’s had his head turned a little bit thinking he’s going to get called up or whatever or maybe looking beyond this season.

‘If you take your eyes off the prize for a second against anybody, teams are so closely matched, you’ll get your comeuppance.’

Barton, who ill be without Sam Finley and Paul Coutts for the visit of Pompey added: ‘He’s captain of our football team, we’re at home, and in the first half (against Wycombe) he jumps for a header and thinks he’s going to get clattered and ducks. There’s no one behind him, unfortunately, it’s not acceptable.

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‘Sometimes you have to put your body on the line and everyone else in the team is doing it. There’s no excuse for not doing that, I think it’s an insult to the quartered jersey and the people who pay your wages to not put your body there.

‘Every now and then you have to explain to the lads that effort errors will not be accepted at this level. It’s his first one, you get three of them. The second one is your final warning and the third one is you leave the building. I don’t care who you are.

‘Ducking when there is an aerial challenge is insulting to our fan base. Aaron is aware of that and ensures me it won’t happen again.’