The profound summer revamp at Priestfield is heavily underway as Head Coach Ady Pennock kicks off his managerial era at the club by bringing in four fresh faces as of writing this, alongside penning two existing players to commit their futures to the Gills. As to every positive there is seemingly a negative and that is definitely the case as respected forward Cody McDonald opted against renewing his deal in Kent and subsequently decided to join division rivals AFC Wimbledon.
Following the news that Pennock would remain in his role for the forthcoming campaign, himself and newly-appointed Director of Football, Peter Taylor, claimed where they thought the squad needed, not only numbers, but strengthening as they attempt to avoid another relegation scrap that remains of painful memories.
The first addition to the transformation was 25 year-old centre-half Alex Lacey whom decided not to remain at League Two outfit Yeovil Town. A real firm fan favourite in the south-west, Lacey looks to be a strong acquisition by Taylor and helps reinforce the fragile defence. From my own perspective, this should be one of the superior captures in the club’s recent history having beaten the likes of Charlton Athletic to Lacey’s signature, that is something to be surely proud of considering our financial constraints at this moment in time.
It didn’t take long for the transfer business to fully come into fruition as the swift signing of Luke O’Neill is more likely than not going to be the first-choice wing-back under Ady Pennock’s management. Formerly of corresponding League One team Southend United, the defensive wide-man is surely going to be utilised by the head coach as a steady replacement for the outgoing Ryan Jackson. Supporters of the Shrimpers have well-thought of opinions surrounding O’Neill; a player with an eminence cross in his locker which will exceedingly benefit the strike-force, especially newest recruit Tom Eaves. Presuming Pennock plays with wing-backs, Luke O’Neill could provide fierce competition for Scott Wagstaff and that is the base line for an effective group of players.
Knowing the defence still demanded numbers, ex-Northampton Town and Peterborough United centre-back Gabriel Zakuani was penned down to a contract at Priestfield. Having spent much of last season in the stands due to injury or plying himself for his home land of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the defender only featured in a handful of outings for the Cobblers, however, to the Cobblers fans I’ve spoken to they say he can be unplayable on his day and could provide to be a key asset if we want to climb the table next term. In my eyes, Pennock has done his homework and realises that international commitments are one of the flaws to acquiring Zakuani’s services but additions across the back line is what we needed and that issue has proudly been addresses within weeks of the transfer window being open.
Gillingham’s most recent signing is the six-foot five-inch tall forward of Thomas Eaves who, like Alex Lacey, wanted to make their next step and opted against renewing their stay at Yeovil Town. At 25 years of age, he seems to be the target man we desperately need ahead of the 2017/18 campaign and I reckon there is a clear plan for his ability at the Gills. Previously, it has been stated that physicality doesn’t always win you the three points but Bolton Wanderers boss Phil Parkinson defied that last year by earning the Trotters a place in the division above. I am completely not saying that Pennock’s men should be chasing promotion, but it does prove that height and strength can be vital attributes to a successful team – exactly what Eaves brings. Considering Luke O’Neill is said to have a wicked cross hidden away which sort of gives a measly idea what the head coach is planning, Tom Eaves may be able to get his head to those balls in the box and ripple the net on a number of occasions over the next twelve months, at the very least.
The Gills decided to give three players, who were seeing their deals expire at the end of this month, new contracts in the hope to keep the current crop of players together for next term, but only two out of those offered have put pen-to-paper.
Pacey attacker Josh Parker, initially arriving in January, is set to be a figure in the Gillingham squad for the next two years and whilst I don’t think he is the prolific striker we so desperately request, there is a reason as to why Ady Pennock wanted to keep the former Queens Park Rangers youth. His speed is the main asset he offers, so with the height of Thomas Eaves partnering him I reckon he could become cleverly useful as the side go forward.
Someone who is yet to get the opportunity to impress is ex-Crystal Palace trainee Elliot List. Slowly introduced into the first-team picture by Pennock’s predecessor Justin Edinburgh, the attack-minded player is still looking for that regular run in the starting eleven and that is why perhaps he was only given a one-year deal. List’s make or break campaign is now and that the next six or seven months will decide his future at League One level, but like anyone should, I dearly hope the management team present the talent with an opportunity during the upcoming pre-season schedule.
The final one of those offered a new contract was fan favourite Cody McDonald. Having spent three separate spells at the club over the course of seven years, the 31 year-old is surely going to be missed after rippling the net on 81 occasions in 223 outings for Gillingham. Just as most players have, McDonald had his critics but to come out of last year on twelve goals in a poor overall display is a superb achievement and did not deserve the grief he received.
As time went on, it became more apparent that he wouldn’t extend his stay in Kent and it became clear last week as he signed for AFC Wimbledon, whom also acquired former three-time loanee Adedeji Oshilaja. Agree or disagree, Cody McDonald was a significant part of the club over the last seven seasons and I am truly gutted he didn’t want to remain at Gillingham. However, as a supporter, I trust Ady Pennock’s approach and hope he has a plan up his sleeve for this exact scenario.
It would seem Gillingham are now entering a new, completely different era at the club. Whilst I feel we have backtracked in appointing Ady Pennock as Head Coach, the new style is somewhat exciting as we head into pre-season and he has definitely won a percentage of supporters over with the welcoming additions he’s made to the squad following a dismal end to the 2016/17 season.
We cannot stop where we are now, there are still signings to be made and I dearly hope Pennock continues with the impressive acquisitions, as with just six weeks remaining until we kick the campaign off at Doncaster Rovers, transfer business needs to be extended. The inevitable departure of Stuart Nelson and the unsurprising exit of Cody McDonald just goes to prove the club is going through a transitional period, but into a more positive, upbeat era where fans can be driven back to support the Gills in a prosperous future lying ahead.
Thank you very much for reading; your thoughts would be greatly appreciated in the comments below.