Raynor looking forward to Gills additions
Raynor looking forward to Gills additions

Gillingham return to pre-season training next week and we’ve been talking exclusively to assistant boss Paul Raynor with progress in building a new squad as the SKYBet League One season start date is now just six weeks away…

“We can’t wait to get back,” the Gills assistant boss told us, “we’re all chomping at the bit. I know that the players are after speaking to them and being in contact with them throughout Lockdown, they’re really excited about getting back to work as all the staff are as well – it’s been a long time, but we’ve had to follow the guidelines and now we’ve got to get on with it and it’s back to it, which we’re all looking forward to.”

“It’s going to be a different squad admittedly to the last one we coached in March, but that’s how football evolves – it happens!”

“Players move on for various reasons where they haven’t had enough game time and move to pastures new; there’s players out of contract who sadly we couldn’t keep for other reasons which we totally understand, and we’ve had to deal with.”

“But we get on with it – we’re excited about having some new additions who will hopefully join us in the coming days which we’re working very hard on. That’s just the life of football and you get used to it.”

The first signing of the Gills summer signings was announced on Friday morning with Ryan Jackson returning to Priestfield. Raynor told us, “He was extremely keen to come back – obviously a little bit of unfinished business for him as he didn’t want to leave when he did as he went to pastures new – he’s someone we have liked for a long, long time; we’ve always admired him as a player – we like his attacking intent and we think he’ll be a good acquisition for us.”

“We’re excited about what we can do in the wider areas with Connor (Ogilvie) on one side and Ryan on the other then we’ll have good attacking threats in the wide areas which was something we wanted to add to the squad, Barry (Fuller) was a little more defensively minded – was a solid defender – obviously Ryan’s a little bit better going forward and that’s something that we really wanted to try and put into the squad, someone with that really attacking intent on the other side of the pitch to Connor and we think we’ve found that in Ryan.”

“We’ve watched him over a number of years with his various clubs and have always been fans of his!”

Raynor then reflected upon the news that last season’s skipper Max Ehmer has joined Bristol Rovers – he said, “Of course it’s a blow! We can’t lie about it, we are disappointed to lose Max, of course we are!”

“I think in normal circumstances, the deal would have been done and we would have kept him, but that wasn’t to be and we can’t keep harping on about it – it’s done; we are disappointed to lose him – he was a big character, he was our captain so we’re not going to say negative things about him.”

“He’s gone, we move on, and we find a replacement. Now we’re well down the road of trying to do that – he will be a miss but we’ve lost players at every club we’ve been at either by selling them or they’ve moved on or whatever circumstances and you just get on with it and you start again. We wish Max all the best, but we have to move on!”

There were two Gills players from last season who are still to commit themselves for a return in 2020/2021 – Brandon Hanlan and Mika Mandron.

“They’ve had offers,” the Gills number two told us, “and they’re weighing them up with the other options that they’ve got, so the ball is in their court – we’d love them to stay; they’ve had good offers, but obviously they’re sort after players and that shows that they both had good seasons with us which has been well documented and they enjoyed last season with us, but that puts them on the radar of other teams.”

“We’ve put good offers to both of the guys, and we’ll wait and see but we won’t wait forever, and we’ll be looking for replacements in case they don’t sign and go elsewhere. So, the ball in their court at the moment.”

Sadly, for Gills fans, since we spoke to Raynor, it’s been announced that Mandron has decided that his future does indeed lie away from Priestfield and he’s signed for Crewe Alexandra.

“We’re working incredibly hard to bring in new players,” Raynor went on, “you wouldn’t expect me to name names – I know that the manager’s phone (and mine) is red hot at the moment, not only putting things in place with the return to training but also for additions, but that’s been ongoing for months really.”

“We were looking forward to this new season a long, long time ago and we’ve been in talks with numerous people over the Lockdown – agents, managers, the guys themselves – so it’s an ongoing process, but we’re pretty close to adding some numbers to the squad – there’s a lot of offers out there to the guys and they’re weighing up those options now and fingers crossed we’ll have something to report in the coming days.”