Three days; three new contracts signed; three midfielders added to Gillingham‘s midfield for the 2016-2017 League One campaign.
If celebrating a last minute Daniel Sturridge winner wasn’t enough to keep fans happy in the garden of England, then the signings of Mark Byrne and Billy Knott – complimented with Aaron Morris renewing his contract – will surely have been cause to smile.
Early Additions as Justin Edinburgh Bolsters Gillingham’s Midfield
Midfielders must have been top of Justin Edinburgh‘s wishlist this off-season. Bradley Dack seems certain to leave. Meanwhile, Doug Loft, the former Gillingham captain is already on his way out. To make matters worse, Josh Wright is seemingly dithering over his contract offer.
Only Emmanuel Osadebe, Jake Hessenthaler and Darren Oldaker were certain to be around the first XI come August 6th. The recent additions were crucial.
Mark Byrne in a Gillingham shirt seemed an inevitability. Justin Edinburgh had already looked at the ex-Newport County midfielder in January before deciding against a bid for the Irish midfielder out of ‘respect’. It was little surprise, therefore, that Gillingham announced his signing almost immediately when news emerged earlier this week from Rodney Parade that Byrne had rejected his contract.
Byrne has already promised a combative, no-nonsense approach that will be sure to win favour with the Priestfield crowd. It is an assertion that Edinburgh backed up immediately. Byrne cleaned up at the Newport County end of season award ceremony. His talent and promise are recognized at League Two level. It is now time that he makes the same impression in League One.
Billy Knott was next through the Priestfield door, signing on the morning of England’s encounter with Wales. The midfielder was a fan favourite at Valley Parade after an infamous goal against Leeds United. However, his release from Bradford raises questions over his ability to lead the League One promotion charge that the Gills hierarchy are hoping for.
Nonetheless, Knott promises flair, pace and an ingenuity that Gillingham may lack with the inevitable exit of Bradley Dack. An added string to Knott’s bow will be his preference for the left side (only natural, given he’s a left footer); complimenting Bradley Garmston down the left.
The least heralded announcement of the week was that Aaron Morris had renewed his contract for another two years. It was greeted with the muted delight that is symptomatic of Morris’ time at Gillingham – for all the right reasons. As seen at his former team, AFC Wimbledon, Morris is capable through the centre of midfield, at right back, and even turning out at centre back. He is the sort of versatile player essential to every squad.
He works hard, is tidy on the ball, and has boundless energy. These qualities, despite a tendency for picking up niggling injuries, have cultivated his status as the unsung hero at Priestfield. This was emphasized at the end of last season. Many felt that he missed out unjustly in Gillingham’s terrible climax to the season.
If Josh Wright signs a new contract next week, then Gillingham’s midfield will be looking very healthy indeed. It will be based on the combination that was successful the majority of last season: youth, running and passion.
The coming weeks will surely see Edinburgh look to bolster other areas of the squad. For now, Gillingham’s midfield is shaping up nicely.