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Harris looking to the future
Harris looking to the future

It’s been a busy – and exciting – start to 2023 for Gillingham and boss Neil Harris.

After the excitement of the club’s takeover and FA Cup Third Round tie with Leicester City, the Gills scored two in a League game for the first time this season as the good mood spread even further around Priestfield with the massive 2-0 win over Hartlepool United last weekend to move within three points of “safety” at the foot of the Football League.

“I went into the game full of excitement and optimism, hope,” Harris said, adding: “I use the word hope in that I was hoping that the centre forwards gel; hoping that we get the work from the midfield; hoping that the back four gels, and hoping that Glenn (Morris) puts in a good performance after leaving Jake (Turner) out after a good performance against Leicester. You’re always hoping for that as a manager.”

“Was I wary? No as that sounds a bit fearful! I was excited – I’ve had enough of being wary going into games this season, the wrong side of Christmas and the wrong side of New Year!”

“Now, I’m trusting my players and I know that I’m on the right pathway, and whatever comes Saturday by five o’clock, I know that we are now a club moving in the right direction and we’re going to win enough games this year.”

The Gills last faced Colchester United on Boxing Day – when the Essex side won 1-0 – but so much has changed at Priestfield in the twenty-five days since that it almost seems an age ago and even a different season – something that the Gills boss agreed with; he said, “it does seem a long time ago. We watched the game back again this week and it was painful and difficult.”

“It was a poor game – nothing between the two teams and I really don’t think that they deserved to win the game with their only shot on goal. But that’s gone now, and I don’t think that it’s going to be a completely smooth ride between now and the end of the season… there’s going to be some massive downs,”

Harris went on: “after all its Gillingham Football Club, isn’t it?!? But I want to go with the positivity and the excitement and keep the players in that mental place going into the games.”

George Lapslie is the one of the latest new names to go onto Harris’ squad after signing from Mansfield Town last weekend and the Gills boss was asked what he will bring to Priestfield.

“George Lapslie’s experienced at this level, had a pedigree of playing in the League above. He has energy; a good pro; he lives locally and wants to be in the area – he’s a good personality in the changing room and has been buzzing in training already this week.”

“It’s just another positive signing, it’s another good player in the Football Club. And good players make other players better around them which we’ve seen already.”

“Having the players to choose from so I have to make those choices is a lovely position to be. Tough decisions that it eludes to possibly, but I’ll make them for the right reasons for the Football Club.”

“I’m really content now with the decisions that I will make now as everybody will have an opportunity! We still need to add to the group – I’m one hundred percent clear on that as we still need three or four more players to get the group where I want it to be, and with Kenny (Jackett) and Hess (Andy Hessenthaler) working behind the scenes we will get them. And then we really will be a competitive League Two outfit.”

As the briefing ended, Harris broke the news that Elkan Baggott had been recalled from his loan spell by his parent club Ipswich Town – and was subsequently loaned to Cheltenham Town for the rest of the season, and it was announced that the Gills had made their sixth and seventh signings of the January window by bringing in “exciting” youngster Jayden Clarke from Non-League Dulwich Hamlet and midfielder Ethan Coleman from League Two leaders Leyton Orient – who has had a spell on loan at Bromley – for an undisclosed fee and both could feature in the squad ahead of the weekend’s trip to the northern edge of Essex.