Experienced midfielder Liam Lawrence today became manager Darrell Clarke's first signing of 2016 when he agreed to join Rovers from Shrewsbury Town.
Manager Darrell Clarke was delighted to welcome a player he knows well to the club and had this to say this afternoon; “I believe his signing is a fantastic coup for the club and to bring someone of his calibre in, on a contract until the end of the season with no fee involved, is massive for me.”
The manager says that he will fill a void left by the departure of Andy Monkhouse in the summer; “I think we did lose a little bit of experience when Andy left and although Lee Mansell is doing a fantastic job for us Liam will be a huge help to us on and off the pitch.
“I really feel that his signing is a superb piece of business for the club. Gone are the days when we pay ridiculous wages to 34 year old footballers. All that Liam wants to do is to come in and play football and he comes here on a lot less money than he’s on at Shrewsbury.
“Should we gain promotion, his reward will be another one year contract and that’s his incentive.
“He can play anywhere across the midfield whether that be in a three, a two, or a four, so he adds competition for places to the squad as well as bringing quality and calmness. He’s a very confident lad and he wants to be here to try to help us push on in the second half of the season.”
He’s a player that the manager knows well from the time that both players spent at Mansfield.
“Although I was only a young pro myself, I had a number of first team games under my belt and took him and few of the other lads, including Craig Disley, under my wing. Mansfield had a number of good young players there at the time and I do know Liam very well.
“I know his character and what he’s about on the football pitch. He’s a winner, and I love winners.”
Chairman Nick Higgs added his thoughts to those of Darrell Clarke and said; “First of all I would like to welcome Liam to the Memorial Stadium.
“I’m sure that our supporters are looking forward to seeing him in action for us and I wish him every success during his time with here.
“He is a player with a great pedigree, having appeared in the top flight with both Sunderland and Stoke, and I’m sure his experience will be of great benefit to our squad.
“Liam is a very welcome, and quality, addition to the squad that Darrell is building for a sustained challenge on a top seven place in League Two.
“In addition to the experience he has gained from playing in The Premiership, he has played at this level as well, having been a member of Shrewsbury Town’s promotion winning side last season.”
The player is already looking forward to making his Rovers debut and had this to say earlier today; “I spoke to the gaffer a few weeks ago and after speaking to Shrewsbury I thought it might be time to move on.
“Darrell looked after me as a youngster at Mansfield and I learnt a lot from him then and hope that continues now.”
His career has taken in a number of Rovers connections, particularly at the top level; “I played with Marcus Stewart for a couple of years at Sunderland and we won promotion during my time there.
“I also played under Tony Pulis at Stoke and he brought in Gerry Francis who I enjoyed working with.”
So what can Rovers fans expect from their new signing?
“I have a great deal of experience to offer, I’m a winner and want to do well. I turned 34 a few weeks ago, but there is still petrol in the tank and fire in the belly. I hope I can bring something to the table and help them get promoted.”
He’s not someone who likes losing and, just as Darrell Clarke helped him as a youngster, he’s willing to pass on his experience to the younger lads at Rovers.
“I hate losing, even in training! But in terms of helping out the younger players, I’ll be happy to give them benefit of my experience as I get to know them. I think it’s important that they are aware of values and the ins and outs of the game.”
Having helped Shrewsbury to runners up spot in League Two last season, he knows what it takes to get out of the division.
“I actually feel that it’s about grinding out results, especially at this stage of the season. The immediate aim has to be to keep the current run going and if we can do that it should be an interesting end to the season.
“Having spoken to Darrell and Marcus I got a real sense that this is a club that’s going places and I’m glad to be here and hope I can help.”
Lawrence began his career with Mansfield Town where he graduated through the ranks and went on to appear in over 100 league games for The Stags before joining Sunderland for a fee of £175,000 in June 2004.
Ten goals in 73 league games followed before a move to Stoke City in November 2006. Over a century of league appearances for The Potteries outfit followed before he was on the move again, this time to Portsmouth. Joining them, initially on loan in September 2010, he signed a permanent deal in January 2011.
Just over a year later, with Pompey in serious financial trouble, Lawrence joined Cardiff City on loan and in August 2012 he moved to Greece, signing for PAOK Salonika.
Returning to England in January 2014, he joined Barnsley until the end of the 2013/14 season and then signed for Shrewsbury in July 2014. His last game for The Shrews, came in last Saturday's 7-1 defeat at the hands of Chesterfield.
A Republic of Ireland International, with 15 caps to his name, Lawrence brings a wealth of experience to the side having appeared in over 500 first class games in all competitions for his previous clubs and having been a member of promotion winning sides at Mansfield, Sunderland, Stoke and Shrewsbury.
You can watch Liam's first interview with the club here: