A ball may not have been kicked in anger yet, but one thing about this season’s Gillingham FC is already clear. They’re going to roll up our sleeves and fight.
The arrival of three tall, strong defenders and two big, strong target men suggests we may well be looking to play more direct in the coming campaign.
And it could also mean a return to Priestfield of a system that offers genuine width, with Scott Wagstaff and the newly re-signed Elliott List likely to be given the chance to provide the crosses for new strikers Tom Eaves and Conor Wilkinson.
It may not be pretty, but let’s face it, nobody’s going to care if we start to steamroll teams in the same way Tony Pulis’ side of the late 1990s routinely bullied the opposition. It would represent a welcome change from recent Gills sides that have shown a soft centre that has proved a key weakness, especially away from home and late on in games.
For things to improve on that front the Gills will need a little more ‘oomph’ in midfield. We’re blessed with plenty of bodies in that area, but we don’t have a genuine midfield enforcer, someone who can anchor the midfield, put their foot in and dictate terms on tricky away days, while providing a platform for the wingers to get forward and play at home.
There’s also a distinct lack of a proven finisher in the squad at present. Former Bolton youngsters Eaves and Wilkinson are welcome additions who will provide some much-needed size and grunt in forward areas, but a glance at their career stats suggests neither has been particularly prolific.
Perhaps playing in tandem will get the best out each other, but I feel with two big, strong target men on board, the obvious next target should be a penalty-box finisher who can latch onto the (hopefully copious) knockdowns our new-look forward line might provide.
Defensively things are looking up. The arrivals of Alex Lacey and Gabriel Zakuani are real positives, while Luke O’Neill could end up forging a useful partnership with Wagstaff on the Gills’ right hand flank.
Things seem less clear on the left. Bradley Garmston seems to be the only viable option at left back, but ahead of him it’s a choice between playing young winger List or forcing a square peg into a round hole by deploying Josh Parker or Lee Martin (both of whom were played wide – and out of position – by Pennock last season) on the left flank.
Ideally, the acquisition of another solid left back could free up Garmston – who has pace to burn, as well as a decent left peg – to push forward into a midfield/wing role while still providing defensive cover.
There’s a team beginning to form at Priestfield, but there are still areas that need addressing. A solution needs to be found on the left, while acquisitions of a strong midfield anchor man and a penalty-box striker remain notably unchecked on the Gills’ shopping list.
We’re making progress, but with Gillingham’s League One rivals also strengthening their respective lineups, it would appear there’s still work to do.