As talks reach an impasse between Rovers and Joe Rothwell over a new deal, and the club making clear the likelihood of out-of-contract players being sold in January, Rangers have been linked with a move for the midfielder.

It shows the difficult position Rovers find themselves in with a player who has established himself as a regular in the side in the last two seasons.

Rothwell will turn 27 in January and Rovers have a decision to make over his future in the new year should talks over a new contract not reach a positive conclusion.

Those have been ongoing for some time, with Rothwell having seen the option in the deal he signed when joining from Oxford United in 2018 taken up, seeing him tied to the club to next summer.

However, Rovers’ bid to extend his deal beyond that have drawn a blank so far, leaving the club facing the prospect of losing him for free next summer, or cashing in on him in January.

That is a stance outlined by chief executive Steve Waggott, as well as manager Tony Mowbray, with Ryan Nyambe and captain Darragh Lenihan also in a similar position. Top scorer Ben Brereton also sees his deal expire next summer, though the club do have an option to extend that.

Players over 24 can strike pre-contract agreements with clubs outside of England from January, giving Rangers the edge in the race for Rothwell, though should it come to a point where Rovers are resigned to losing him, they would be keen to recoup a fee.

Rangers snapped up John Lundstram, a former team-mate of Rothwell, on a free transfer last summer after his deal with Sheffield United expired.

Rothwell has started all of Rovers matches this season, having featured in 39 of their 46 games last term, with manager Mowbray believing his talent can take him to the Premier League.

Goals and assists have been the question mark surrounding Rothwell since his arrival at the club, netting just seven times in 130 appearances, and he has now gone 30 matches without finding the net. He did however claim a third assist of the season with his dazzling run for Ben Brereton’s first goal at Huddersfield Town, despite struggling with a muscle issue of late.

Rothwell spent his first two seasons at Ewood Park playing off the left, but he’s got his wish to play in his more favoured central role post-lockdown. He is also one of the elder statesmen in the squad, despite still being only 26, but it’s a responsibility he’s taking on board well.

He said: “Being 26 and being classed as one of the older lads, it’s not something I’ve been used to in previous squads.

“But I don’t mind that and I enjoy that extra responsibility to help the lads.

“It’s shown a little bit in my performances and I’m enjoying playing in a slightly deeper role.

“The manager’s always onto me about doing the other side of the game when playing in central midfield.

“Running forward with the ball, that’s nothing new to me and not a problem, but you also need to be solid defensively, especially playing in that deeper role.

“I feel I’m grasping it though and I’m hopeful of continuing that way.

“If you’re going to play in a two, as I am doing, you’ve got to do the other side of it.”

There are few players in the division who can drive forward with the ball at speed like Rothwell, which is why Rovers are so keen to tie him to a new deal.

The player is yet to give his side of events, instead keen to focus his attentions on matters on the pitch.

Catch him if you can? “Once I put the afterburners on, I don’t think there’s many who can catch me, especially with the ball,” Rothwell said. “But I know when I do those runs that there needs to be end product with it.”