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Stoke City coach reveals how Connor Taylor has improved foll

Connor Taylor is back at Stoke City after a fine campaign on loan at Bristol Rovers with the Gas keen to bring him back to north Bristol for the forthcoming League One season

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Stoke City academy chief Gareth Owen believes Connor Taylors outstanding season at Bristol Rovers has helped enhance the young centre-backs leadership skills and improved his aerial ability.

Rovers are waiting patiently for Stoke to make a decision on the immediate future of the centre-back prospect who started 41 games for the Gas last season as they earned automatic promotion from League Two. Manager Joey Barton has openly admitted hed love to take the 20-year-old back on loan, should he not be able to force his way into the first-team thinking at Stoke.

Potters managerMichael ONeill reiterated last weekthat the plan is to take a look at Taylor over pre-season to see where exactly he fits in the centre-back hierarchy for 2022/23 and if its best to hold onto him, or loan him out again, with League One the obvious destination.

Rovers are not the only club in the third tier who have declared an interest in taking Taylor butgiven the players relationship with the club, the fact he felt settled in Bristol plus the very clear evidence of the impact Barton and his coaching team have had on the defender, surely puts them near the top of the queue.

Owens admits Taylorhas constantly risen to each challenge that has been placed in front of him and nine months in League Two has brought out some attributes that couldnt be worked on properly in Under-23s football.

Connor was in Stafford Rangers scholar programme when we picked him up. He came in on trial and joined us as a second-year scholar. He was in and out of the under-18s getting used to full-time football and improving in certain areas. He didnt really attack the ball well enough in the air and was improving one-v-one,Owens told Stoke Live.

We got him some extra games and he played for Newcastle Town in that first year while he was getting up speed. Then he got into the 23s, had experience out on loan at Ashton and Chester and then to Bristol Rovers, where he has had an outstanding season.

So how far can we get him? Every time we have put a pathway in front of him he has taken the challenge and gone up to the next level. The biggest challenge will be to ultimately cement a first team place at Stoke.

His progress is all credit to him and his family who have trusted us with his development.

When I saw him play this season you can see his ability in the air has got considerably better, and playing in League Two has helped bring that on. Hes still good on the ball, as he was when he came through the door, and has a short and long-range pass, while being on loan has helped his leadership skills.

Hes athletic and has a good physique so its been about improving his heading, his organising and his ability to play week in, week out in front of a crowd.

How do they adjust to an area, how do they mature? Connor has loved living away from home and loved the whole season. Then he was back to cheer on our under-23s in the play-off final. Credit to him.

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