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Gillingham must hang on to hitman Eaves to avoid the relegation trapdoor

Depending on who you talk to, Tom Eaves’ departure from Gillingham FC could be an inevitability in January. But in letting him go, the club may ultimately have opted to accept possible relegation in exchange for pound notes.

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It seems Gillingham are having another one of those seasons…

A hugely positive start had fans deliriously dreaming of a playoff push. But we all should have known better. Things rarely run smoothly when it comes to Gillingham FC, and when results started to turn alarmingly against us, the blue skies over the club were replaced by dark clouds.

Manager Steve Lovell, a unanimously popular appointment, saw his early-season feel-good factor all but disappear as some fans reluctantly started to debate the possibility of the former Gills striker being replaced as the temperature of the managerial hot seat started to get little too warm for comfort.

Now, with the Gills facing an FA Cup tie against Premier League opposition and a crucial set of festive fixtures ahead, thoughts are already turning to January, when the opportunity for teams to wheel and deal in the transfer market opens up once again.

For a club like Gillingham, it’s often a period of huge concern for the fans and this coming January will be no different.

That’s because, despite the club’s unpredictable form, one man has remained consistent. Striker Tom Eaves has been a shining light for the club in the 2018/19 season, and at Christmas headed the League 1 top goalscorer table.

The pony-tailed target man has hit 14 goals in the league so far this season, for a scoring rate of 126 minutes per goal. He has a shots-to-goals conversion rate of better than 50% and he’s scored all types of goals so far this season. It all shows that, when on form and firing, he’s as good as anyone in the division in his position.

Having such a talented striker is always a double-edged sword for a club like Gillingham, who have to sell their best assets to help make ends meet. We saw it happen with talented playmaker Bradley Dack, who was sold to Championship side Blackburn Rovers two summers ago.

With Blackburn sitting in mid-table, the Championship betting odds have Blackburn as 25/1 shots to be promoted. But with Dack leading the club’s goalscoring charts in the league with nine, a late-season surge could yet see the former Gill pushing for a place in the Premier League next season.

And it’s that lure of a bigger club, a bigger contract and a shot at the biggest league in the world that means that Eaves would surely have to consider a move up a division if one of the Championship sides came calling.

With his size, mobility and ability to score all kinds of goals, he’d be a serious asset for any of the sides just outside of the playoff places in the Championship. Who knows? Maybe Blackburn might come calling again?

But the rumour currently doing the rounds ahead of the festive period has linked the Gills hitman with a move north of the border to join Steven Gerrard’s revolution at Rangers.

Proud Scouser Eaves would surely love the opportunity to not only ply his trade for the Glasgow giants, but also work for a Liverpudlian legend like Gerrard. There’s also the distinct possibility of European football, too. That’s quite a leap from the Checkatrade Trophy.

If he continues to play well and score regularly as he has done over the past two seasons, Eaves’ departure to a bigger club would appear to be nigh-on inevitable. Indeed, few fans would begrudge the big Scouser a shot at a bigger club, especially if Rangers did come calling.

But timing is everything in football, and it is absolutely critical that the club hangs on to their talismanic target man through the January transfer window.

Put simply, letting Eaves go now would put the club at increased risk of being dragged into a relegation dogfight.

That may yet happen even with Eaves in the squad. But if you’re in danger and need to get yourself out of trouble, you need a man you can count on to score important goals in important games.

With Eaves in the squad, we have that man. Let him go, and our chances of surviving a basement battle go through the floor.