The month of May is known for two things within football; the climax of the campaign and players’ futures are destined via the retained lists which every club releases. Despite it being three weeks since the regular League One season came to a close and it has only just been announced by the beloved Gillingham Football Club with manager Ady Pennock’s reign at Priestfield dawning by him axing eight players to allow them to find new employers.
Of those being relieved of their duties in the Medway towns are defenders Zesh Rehman, Chris Herd and Ryan Jackson with midfielders Ollie Muldoon and Emmanuel Osadebe. Alongside them is attacker Rory Donnelly, and youth prospects Mitch Dickenson and Harry Newcombe. Going on the basis of the majority of the fans’ thoughts, I think the large percentage are satisfied with who will be allowed to hit the road.
It is seemingly obvious that my opinions are quite differing to the preponderance. Starting with Ryan Jackson, it will be a regrettable decision to let his contract expire. I wholeheartedly agree the right-back was not able to fulfil expectations of what we witnessed in his first campaign at the club following ongoing injury issues, however, Ady Pennock’s squad is very lightweight in the defensive positions and, on his day, Jackson is one of the most unstoppable wide players in the division. The former Newport County man was also our joint-top creator for the 2016/17 term, assisting in five league goals which draws him level with Bradley Dack.
Zesh Rehman, whom put pen-to-paper on a short-term deal in late February, proved to be quite the useful acquisition and went on to make ten League One appearances for Gillingham. The 33 year-old became almost an unsung hero at times, a one-year contract would have been justifiable and I could’ve been satisfied if he was a back-up to the back line, a solid member of the first-team, in my opinion.
Completing the defenders who no longer play for the Gills is Australian unit Chris Herd. Unfortunately, for him, injuries have been reoccurring throughout his career and specifically here at Priestfield. Since signing for the club, which he completed in October alongside Frank Nouble, the ex-Aston Villa player featured in a measly twelve outings – not a lot considering he was in the picture for six months of the season. Ady Pennock will demand squad members who are reliable week-in, week-out and it was the correct decision to allow Herd to leave because it cannot attain those instructions.
The midfield duo are rather unsurprising, to be honest. Most were simply bemused at the signing of Ollie Muldoon, having made little impact in his initial spell at Gillingham two years ago. Having played in as little as four games for the club since arriving three months prior to the end of the term, he also didn’t offer a huge substance and was more a panic obtainment by the managerial team at the time. Admittedly, there were a few absences upon him putting pen-to-paper.
Emmanuel ‘Paddy’ Osadebe was a bewildering accession by Justin Edinburgh in the summer of 2015 and it was even more shocking when the Irishman began opener of the 2015/16 season against Sheffield United. His first twelve months in Kent were, without a doubt, a lot more effective and progressive than the following. On a whole, the midfielder’s only true strength was his pace – the passing ability he possessed was not up to third-tier standard and over time it seemed his attitude was altered, by who or what remains a mystery. If Osadebe had the right management to assist him then there’s bags of potential in the player, but quite clearly Pennock doesn’t seem to require his services. Committing to a decision, it was the right one by the Head Coach.
It’s difficult to begin where to discuss with Rory Donnelly, a promising striker when acquired by Edinburgh but for some reason it hasn’t quite worked out for the Northern Ireland forward. There is debating the fact that he must have enjoyed the first season here at Gillingham with the amount of goals he was putting away. Although, as the European Championships approached and his country’s boss publicly stating that Donnelly could be heading to France, it meant he took his attention of the Gills and the form went drastically downhill. From the 2016/17 term, the 25 year-old bagged on just two occasions and it is that lack of rippling the net which saw him fall surplus to requirements. As well as that, his way of departing the club wasn’t ideal for either party – his personality doesn’t suit the League One outfit and, on a personal level, I think it was a flawless decision to make.
The two youth prospects, centre-back Mitch Dickenson and goalkeeper Harry Newcombe, were the final two to not make the cut. The former figured in several outings throughout the campaign and, honestly, I don’t think we saw enough of him to judge but, for whatever reason, Ady Pennock doesn’t deem Dickenson to have a future in the Medway towns. I know very little surrounding Newcombe apart from the fact that he was on loan at Chatham Town for a spell last year. With Tomáš Holý, Stuart Nelson and Tom Hadler contesting in the first-team then it was best to let him go.
A further two have been transfer-listed – Nelson and Billy Knott. The ‘keeper is a firm fan favourite amongst the Gills faithful and it is surprising to most that Ady Pennock doesn’t see the 2012/13 champion having a future at the club. It is that or he has been told that first-choice is for Holý, and that may be the case. Whether ‘England’s number one’ does leave or not, it is heart-breaking to see him available for a potential departure. Moving onto Knott, my opinion is that he, himself, does not envisage a career at Priestfield, meaning the midfielder wants to leave.
As a supporter, I would like to thank every-single one of the players for their contribution to a less-than-ideal campaign and for those leaving I wish them the very best of luck in the future.