When the clock struck midnight on January 1st, there was new prosperity and hope to look forward to for many of us as 2017 emerged. Although the arrival of the new year means so much more for those who fill their time up by watching others kick a football around for a living – indeed, the winter transfer window was open.
With the sacking of Justin Edinburgh, January would prove to be a busy month for Gillingham chairman Paul Scally. A new manager took priority and it took less than 48 hours for Ady Pennock to be appointed Head Coach, and that meant we could get done to some much need transfer business.
Czech goalkeeper Tomas Holy was the first signing at Priestfield, whom put pen-to-paper on a two-and-a-half year deal at the club prior to our trip to Bramall Lane. Whilst I felt the man between the posts wasn’t an area on the pitch we needed to improve, I’m glad we now have added competition for that position. Stuart Nelson seems to play better when he knows someone else could replace him, and that has been proved as ‘England’ Number One’ has put in a fine string of good performances since and solidified being the first name on the team sheet.
As the deadline loomed ever closer, the pressure was on Pennock to complete more signings but with a very tight budget it was proven difficult. The visit of Shrewsbury Town wouldn’t only be the boss’ first home game in charge but also our last match of January. Having drawn one apiece, the Gills announced the capture of forward Josh Parker. I must admit the fact that I know very little about this player so there’s very little for me to judge, but reports suggest he’s a very quick and exciting striker. That is definitely something Gillingham have been missing during the first six months of the season and could be a very wise acquirement by Ady Pennock. It also adds extra competition to the frontline. No disrespect to Cody McDonald but his recent form is very little to be desired for and perhaps knowing there is more contention to start – although we know might decide to change our system by playing two strikers, rather than the one we have been for most of the year.
Having just two centre-backs for January was not ideal following the departures of Josh Pask and Baily Cargill, who returned to their parent clubs respectively. So Tuesday, 31st January was going to be frantic for the Gills.
Less than an hour until the transfer window closed Gillingham announced the double signing of forward Joe Quigley and winger Harry Cornick, with the pair joining on loan from AFC Bournemouth. The former was with us for the opening month of the season before being forced to cut his spell sort due to injury. I have to be honest and say he does cause stress of the opposition’s defence, and whilst he didn’t score many goalscoring opportunities, he made problems for the other team and that was a massive positive from his previous time here at Priestfield.
Cornick, somewhat of an unknown, has got Football League experience as well which is always good. I remember the then-named Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie against Yeovil Town and he was a right handful for Ryan Jackson. The 21 year-old has most recently spent time at Leyton Orient and supporters of the League Two team say he’s promising, quick and isn’t afraid to take on a player. That is something else which we have lacked this season, players who have guts and courage to take a defender on.
Still no defender had joined Gillingham, but the club announced the arrival of ex-MK Dons, Portsmouth and Barnet centre-half Bondz N’Gala on a deal until the end of the current campaign. I think he was on trial with us a couple of years ago but didn’t impress at the time and eventually signed for Portsmouth. Others say he is particularly aggressive, another attribute the Gills have had a lack of. Although plenty say N’Gala is also not the quickest. A lot of fans rate pace a lot higher in a player’s skill than it probably should be. If a defender can’t run that fast then it’s not the end of the world and, in my opinion, a positive capture as it’s more depth to the current squad.
Billy Knott has struggled to find his way back into the team since picking up an injury in late 2016 and if he has a future at the Gills then he needs to be getting minutes on the pitch. As a result he has been sent on loan to National League outfit Lincoln City. I think it’s a positive departure because the side has too many midfielders to cope and in an attempt to balance the books, Pennock or the chairman has taken the right decision to ship Knott out.
Am I happy with our transfer business? I wouldn’t be overly ecstatic about the signings but we do have more depth in the first-team than we did, so it’s a satisfying month and a bit of activity at the Gills. Its boosted by the near returns of Bradley Garmston and Lee Martin, who will add extra competition for places in the matchday squads. We may still see more incomings as free agents can join clubs outside the window, and that would always be welcome at Gillingham, for me.
Thank you for reading.