Rovers enjoyed a productive transfer window, and not just in terms of incomings.

Six players secured loan moves away from the club to help aid their development and provide them with the chance for invaluable game-time away from Ewood Park.

Jack Vale had quite the deadline day, the young attacker scoring in the Under-23s win at Leicester City, a victory which sent them top of Premier League 2, and then had a loan move to Rochdale announced within 90 minutes of the final whistle.

That followed a move for Joe Grayson to Oxford United earlier in the day, a move that had been worked on throughout the window, while Taylor Harwood-Bellis’ arrival from Manchester City freed up Tyler Magloire to sign for Scottish Premiership side Motherwell.

While Grayson and Magloire have previous experience out on loan, this will be 19-year-old Vale’s first real time away from the club after a previous move to Barrow last season was cut short by coronavirus. That saw him return to Ewood Park, and subsequently make his first-team debut in the penultimate game against Reading.

Not 20 until next month, Vale was a player Rovers were very keen to get a move to in the window after a difficult 12 months with injuries.

On how the move to Rochdale materialised, Under-23s boss Billy Barr said: “I was made aware of that at half-time. And it was straight after the game finished Jack signed the papers for his loan to Rochdale.

“It’s something he needs, the next step in his professional career, to be in and around a first-team environment.

“Maybe it’s helped with Sam Kelly having left us to go to Rochdale as physio with knowing what they need and what Jack can do.

“He’s only played a couple of games and he will only get better and hopefully with the game-time he can go on and show what he can in the Football League.”

Vale has long been tipped for a bright future at the club, signing a long-term professional contract when still a scholar, but his progress hasn’t been a smooth one since his first-team bow at the end of last season.

An injury in pre-season, and then in his comeback for the Under-23s in November, has meant run-outs against Manchester City and Leicester City are his first run-outs of the season.

But Barr believes the loan move will only prove beneficial.

“A really good club, I’ll be honest, probably better than we all expected,” he said of the Rochdale switch.

“Barrow, Covid killed that, he came back and got himself in and around the first-team and made his debut off the bench.

“He came back for pre-season and unfortunately got injured quite early on and over the last week they’re his only 90 minutes games of the season.

“I trust in Jack, I trust in his ability, and given his opportunity and maturity within a professional group, I’m sure he’ll come back to us a far better player.”

Earlier in the window, Hayden Carter moved to Burton Albion in League One, with midfielder Brad Lyons securing a temporary move to Morecambe, in League Two.

Harry Chapman, on the fringe of the first-team but also a regular for the Under-23s, was signed by Shrewsbury Town for the remainder of the season, and has regained some of his sparkle in his early appearances for the League One side.

The current crop away from Ewood Park is the largest Rovers have had for some time, previously opting to keep their young players around and wait for opportunities in the first-team, a ploy that worked well with Ryan Nyambe, Lewis Travis, John Buckley and Joe Rankin-Costello, none of which went out on loan.

But Scott Wharton has proven to be a perfect example of the loan system working in Rovers’ favour, returning from spells with five temporary moves to be ready for the first-team stage at Rovers, his season cruelly cut short by an Achilles injury at a time when he was making the centre back spot next to Darragh Lenihan his own.

Barr says one of the most difficult tasks is finding the right environment for youngsters to go and ply their trade, but he feels Rovers have sourced good moves for their young prospects.

He explained: “What I will say is the lads that have gone out have gone to really good clubs and it gives them a real opportunity to go and showcase what they’re about on a really good stage.

“The next three or four months, at the end of it, hopefully all of them have really good loans.

“It will be interesting in the next three months to see what it throws up and hopefully they’ve all had really prosperous loans and it leads to something else.”


  • Luke Brennan was back in action for Rovers Under-23s in the win at Leicester City after seeing his loan spell at AFC Fylde cut short.

Brennan was set to stay at the National League North club for the whole season but a lack of game-time saw Rovers exercise their recall option.

The teenager made his first team debut against Nottingham Forest in October and was subsequently loaned to Jim Bentley’s side, but struggled to hold down a regular place.

Brennan was the star of Rovers’ run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals last season and has caught the eye for the Under-23s in the last year and he will be a big part of Barr’s squad moving forward.

With several of the more experienced players in the Under-23s group having been loaned out, Rovers will look to the likes of Brennan to help lead the charge in the second half of the season.

Boss Billy Barr says it’s to be expected that not all loan moves will work out and that it doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.

“You look around and historically, first loans are very hit and miss,” he explained. “Sometimes they don’t work out as you would have hoped.

“But you’ll have one out of the blue that just works.

“It’s all good learning in terms of development. If it’s gone wrong, why has it gone wrong? On reflection, can we put those things right, build and get back to a level so the next club you go to you’re in a better place, understand the requirements of first-team football.”