Derek McInnes faces competition to keep Stephen Pearson at Bristol City
DEREK McInnes aims to fight off the competition from rival clubs and make Stephen Pearson a Bristol City player next season.
City manager McInnes this week offered the Scottish international midfielder a new contract when issuing his retained list.
However, Pearson is attracting interest from a number of other clubs and City could face a fight for his signature.
Signed initially on loan from Derby in November, Pearson agreed a short-term contract until the end of the season and impressed with his performances in a number of different positions.
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McInnes said: “I hope we can keep him because there will be other clubs keen to take him, I know of some already. He likes the club and loves living in the city, so, hopefully, he will be playing his football for us next season.”
Pearson scored three goals for City, including a dramatic winner against table-toppers Southampton at St Mary’s in December – and he established himself as a first-team regular, even playing through the pain of injury at one stage.
McInnes added: “I think Stephen has been excellent. He’s played as a two in midfield; he’s played on the left and high up in a three. He’s been consistent for me and has shown his worth.
“He lost his way at Derby, but I know from speaking to other managers up and down the country the kind of admiration there is for Stephen. It would have been nice for him to score more goals. He’s scored three, but it could have been double that.
“He’s left-sided, six-foot plus, he’s got good pace and drive. I trust him 100 per cent and he’s done well for me. He’s earned this offer.”
Although eight players were released in order to free up funds for new signings this summer, McInnes has handed Academy products Lewis Carey and Joe Edwards another year in which to prove themselves.
Goalkeeper Carey was handed his first professional contract by previous boss Keith Millen, but has yet to feature in the first-team squad.
But McInnes feels he is still improving and Carey could yet have a future at Ashton Gate.
The City manager said: “I took an instant like to Lewis and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in his game, but he’s still young enough to improve some more.
“He’s been out on loan at Gloucester and the next step is to do the same at a higher league club to see how he handles that side of it.
“He’s put a lot of hard work in to try to stay here and is fully deserving of the contract offer.”
Edwards made just one start for City last season, but his form while on loan at Yeovil has earned the right-back a new deal.
McInnes added: “We brought Joe back from his loan spell at Yeovil very selfishly because of a number of injuries in the camp.
“He should have stayed there for his own development; I don’t have any problems in admitting that.
“Joe showed at Yeovil he could cope well at League One level and we had very good reports on him.
“I think there’s the chance to improve further and that’s why we’ve made him an offer, which we really hope he will accept.”
David James, released by Bristol City this week, believes England successor Joe Hart is now Europe’s number one goalkeeper, ahead of Spain skipper Iker Casillas.
“Joe is better than Casillas,” James said. “He makes all the saves, he takes all the crosses. He can do much more than Casillas.
“Joe is head and shoulders above everyone else with England now and I would struggle to see a better goalkeeper in Europe.”