Rovers are eagerly trying to add more attacking talent and firepower to their Academy ranks.

A number of strikers have threatened to break through in recent years, but things have tended to dry up when making that big final step to the first-team.

Joe Nuttall arrived at the club as a 20-year-old, a free agent after leaving Aberdeen having come through the ranks at Manchester City. Nuttall ended his first season as top scorer in Premier League 2 Academy football across both divisions, and also had an impact at first-team level, and again last season playing 18 times.

But with Rovers recruiting heavily in their forward line, it was felt best for all parties for the 22-year-old to move on and progress his career in League One with Blackpool.

Dan Butterworth, picked up after his release from Manchester United, is working his way back to fitness and like Joe Rankin-Costello, who followed a similar career path, are on the brink of a first-team breakthrough.

Within the Under-23s ranks, Jack Vale, who many feel is better suited to the deeper attacking roles, has taken on the No.9 shirt, and further down, Chanka Zimba in the Under-18s has seemingly been converted in to a centre forward, from a midfielder, to fill a gap in the squad.

So far this season, of the 13 goals scored in Premier League 2 by the Under-23s, eight have been by Dominic Samuel and Harry Chapman.

And Barr says the club are looking at ways of adding to their striking talent, whenever the opportunity arises.

“We’re actively, within the Academy, trying to bring in more centre forwards, and forward type players,” he told the Lancashire Telegraph.

“It’s hard competing with the top clubs because they can offer the financial riches without them having to be earned.

“I think we do well with the people we bring in and get them to where they want to be.

“You have the people like (Lewis) Travis who have come through and that’s really rewarding.”

Rovers have had a number of players be prolific at youth level, but few have made that step up, with Matt Derbyshire a rare exception. 

Like Nuttall, he was a late arrival to Rovers, playing for Great Harwood Town in the North West Counties League when signed to a deal in 2002. He went on to score 20 goals in 86 appearances before moving to Olympiakos in 2009.

Two years Derbyshire’s junior is Joe Garner, with hopes high that Rovers had uncovered another goalscoring Garner within their ranks.

He recalled some years later scoring six goals in an Under-16s game against Manchester United, and regularly snetted around 30 goals a season for Rovers’ Academy sides.

But as Garner tried to bridge the gap, he came through at a time when Rovers not only possessed great striking talent, but also operating towards the top end of the Premier League. Leaving for Carlisle in 2007, now 31, Garner has enjoyed a career that has brought 129 goals in 449 career appearances.

More recently was Lewis Mansell, another to plunder goals at youth level, but those began to dry up over the course of the last three seasons before signing for Partick Thistle after being released.

Making a move to Bedford Town in the eighth tier of English football this week was Tom Hitchcock, still only 27. He joined Rovers in 2007, recommended by his dad, goalkeeping coach Kevin, who was working at the club at that time. But again, despite his youth-team goals, he left without making an appearance.

That was the same 23-year-old Dean Rittenberg, who achieved England honours at Under-18s level, scoring twice, but since leaving Rovers, has played for Bangor City and now Cefyn Druids.

Rittenberg’s strike partner coming through the youth ranks was Jordan Preston, now plying his trade for Gateshead after spells with Ayr, Guiseley and Halifax.

Callum Hendry, son of Colin, is now with St Johnstone after a spell with Rovers, Jason Banton had his contract terminated in 2010 despite being top scorer in the Academy side in his first year at the club, while Curtis Haley was another prospect who failed to hit the heights. 

Producing footballers is far from an exact science, and feels cyclical.

Only recently Rovers had Lewis Travis, John Buckley, Willem Tomlinson and Lewis Hardcastle all in the same Under-23s side. While the latter two have since moved on, the former are now part and parcel of the first-team squad.

Indeed, now, Roers have options aplenty in defence. 

Scott Wharton, Matty Platt, Joe Grayson, Tyler Magloire, Sam Barnes, Louie Annesley, Charley Doyle, Hayden Carter, the list goes on for Barr in central defence.

“I wish we had that many centre forwards,” Barr said of his centre back options.

“There are people out on loan, Tyler is out on loan but is injured, we’ve got Hayden Carter to come back in to the fold, it’s good, and they can all play and rising to the challenge.”

With the likes of Wharton, Platt and Magloire out on loan, opportunity has arisen for teenager Sam Barnes, to take his chance.

A John Stones lookalike, he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and a player Barr thinks highly of.

“He’s done really well, we always knew he was a good footballer,” he said.

“He looks to have grown physically and he’s working hard to improve that, doing extra sessions every day.

“The footballing side he looks to have a lot of confidence, nothing fazes him, he steps in when we ask him, he’s prepared to go one-v-one on the halfway line, and maturing in to a good footballer.”