The inevitable departure of promising playmaker Bradley Dack has finally been confirmed as the most recent successful prospect to come of the ever-reliant Gills academy moves on to ply their trade elsewhere, only to surprisingly join a club competing in the same division as Ady Pennock’s men this season.
Dack, whom was heavily on the cards to exit Priestfield this summer, has penned a deal to join Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers – playing in the third-tier for the first time in 37 years, a spell that included them lifting the coveted Premier League trophy – for an undisclosed fee but thought to be in the region of a whopping £750,000 with deserved add-ons.
There seems to be a mixture of split opinion in the Gillingham fan base; many are stating that it is right to allow the 23 year-old to move on as he’s earned the honour to progress his highly-rated career, meanwhile, the others somewhat wanted him Bradley Dack to remain in the Gills’ ranks as Pennock’s jigsaw was finally coming into place.
You have to track back in time to realise just where the young talent grew upon. Having gained the attention of then-manager Martin Allen in 2012’s pre-season schedule, Dack was handed his anticipated debut in the confounded away League Cup victory over Bristol City prior to his first league outing days later in the glorious opening day triumph at home to Bradford City. It was also the following month the former Charlton Athletic trainee bagged his initial professional goal, coming in the Football League Trophy encounter with Crawley Town. His boyhood dream was finally becoming a reality as Gillingham concreted him to a three-year deal the following day.
Bradley Dack has only gone on to progress and impress to a further extent as he earned himself a higher profile as well as enjoy some success with the football club.
A month-long loan stint at non-league Braintree during the affluent 2012/13 campaign would help the attacking midfielder’s development as he’d go on to feature in twenty matches for Allen and be casted as Young Player of the Season, an award which would have raised the expectation level for the teenager.
Following the departure of Martin Allen as boss, unfortunately for Dack it would end a run of confidence and consistent performances as incoming interim manager Peter Taylor would drop the encouraging attacker to the bench and that angrily frustrated supporters as his progress halted.
Much to the delight of a majority of fans, the dismissal of the gaffer half-way through the 2014/15 term paved the way for Bradley Dack to once again ensure his footballing future as the ‘Gang of Four’ re-introduced him as the first name on the team sheet and permanent arrival Justin Edinburgh continued that advice to guide the Gills to a satisfactory mid-table finish. In fact, the boss even commented on the creative maestro’s importance to the team; “The catalyst of our team…full of energy, he is tenacious, he has quality and he is a top player – definitely Championship quality”.
The rise of the Football League’s mounting talent was preserved when Edinburgh’s attempt to take Gillingham into the Championship, which ended in disappointment and disarray, during the 2015/16 campaign, was mainly down to the service of Dack having bagged thirteen league goals and provided ten assists as the Kent outfit narrowly missed out on a play-off spot following a late drop down the table. He even attracted the attention of several clubs from the division above, which to many people were surprised by, chairman Paul Scally opted against accepting a rumoured bid of £2 million from Bristol City. The talent he showcased was justifiably rewarded with being named League One Player of the Season for 2016, proving just the heights Bradley Dack could maintain one day.
The closing twelve months of his Gills career would be relatively prolific but wouldn’t return to see the success of the last season. Nearly half the creativity resulted in interested cooling off and Edinburgh’s exit allowed Ady Pennock to take charge as the club marginally avoided relegation on the final day, but definitely a forgettable year for Bradley Dack.
My thoughts on the departure
Like anyone will say, if you have the chance to progress your career then nine times out of ten you are going to take the opportunity. It is no different to Dack, whom has been nurtured in Medway, but will go on reach new heights which he is fully deserving of. From the player’s perspective, he sees a future at Blackburn Rovers, who, let’s be honest, have a more prestigious history behind them and are more likely to challenge for promotion.
Any supporter can look back at the approach made by Bristol City eighteen months ago and think why Scally didn’t allow the prized possession to leave. People have to remember that we were bidding for a place in the Championship, a division that we’ve not experienced since the mid-2000’s, and the reward for our spot in the second-tier far outweighs the sum we’d receive for Bradley Dack.
It is just the case of another blow in Pennock’s plan for this club; he may have lost Cody McDonald as well but this is the business in the lower leagues and we have to accept this to move on. As a fan, I fully expect, or hope, that the fee we receive will be reinvested in the squad so the selling isn’t as regrettable. Just as we have done in the past with the likes of Matt Jarvis and Ryan Bertrand, the add-ons’ inclusion will be conclusive and the sums Gillingham receive in the long-term will be far more superior than the immediate return for Dack’s development.
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