Lovell pleased with pre-season progress
Lovell pleased with pre-season progress

So pre-season has started for Gillingham with a double outing on Saturday afternoon.

Senior players made up the bulk of a side that went to Cheriton Road to draw 1-1 with BOSTIK Premier side Folkestone Invicta, whilst a mainly junior side which did include Billy Bingham, playing his first game since missing the bulk of the end of last season through injury, went to Southern Counties East Football League Sheppey United.

Boss Steve Lovell told KSN: “The weekend saw us have 44 players all playing 45 minutes each. I know there will be some wanting to play more, but each of them also knows that they will be gradually eased back into things so that when we run out at Accrington on August 4th, each and every one of them will be ready to go.”

At Cheriton Road, Ade Youseff gave the home side the lead just before half time, before Conor Wilkinson equalised for the Gills as the game ended in a 1-1 draw, whilst on the Isle of Sheppey, the younger Gills won 7-1 with Harry Woods netting a second half hat-trick.

Bradley Stevenson put the Gills in front early on before Franck Moussa doubled the lead and then Darren Oldaker added a third with a free kick. Woods then helped himself to a second half hat-trick before Charles Noyelle completed the scoring for the visitors as Dan Bradshaw got Sheppey on the board from the penalty spot late on.

The Gills went into the weekend with many new faces in their various squads as Lovell has done a lot of “early business” something that previous managers had perhaps missed out on.

Lovell explained: “The players became available that we had been looking at and had our eyes on and after meeting with them, I’m delighted that we’ve got them on board.”

“Getting Callum (Reilly) back at the end of the week made it seven new signings and was a great bit of business for us. I was delighted to get Dean (Parrett) and Ryan Charles Cook in so early, as they were two players who we’d identified early on which is why we were able to move so relatively early.”

“Some people may have raised an eyebrow when Barry Fuller re-signed for the club, but I’ve got no problem with him coming back. When I met with him he came across as a terrific professional and for me, looking to get real competition for each place, he’s a great signing.”

Last year’s Player of the Year Mark Byrne was another who just last week signed a new two year contract at the club.

“Yes it’s great to have Mark back after the way he played last season, but again it’s another part of the squad and having the others coming back like Gabby (Zakuani) has been terrific and over the coming week we’ll be building them up more and more – if you think about it we’ve been back two weeks already – so that we’ll be ready to hit the ground running on August 4th.” said Lovell.

The two games at the weekend of course both started early so that the players and supporters could both watch the World Cup Quarter Final between England and Sweden.

Lovell had admitted to us the day before that: “Although I am a proud Welshman, I’ll be as much behind England as I can be. It would be a massive massive fillip for the game in this country if they could go all the way it really would!”

So we finished by asking the Gills boss the question that everyone has been asking, “Is football coming home?”

Smiling he said: “It could be!”