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Manager Steve Evans says it's all systems go for a third season in League 1 with Gillingham

Gillingham manager Steve Evans is starting to make offers to potential new recruits.

Evans concluded his planning with chairman Paul Scally on Thursday and it’s all systems go as he prepares for a third season at the helm.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans will be handing out offers to new players from Friday Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham manager Steve Evans will be handing out offers to new players from Friday Picture: Ady Kerry

The Gills boss has led the club to back-to-back 10th place finishes in League 1 and is now hoping to bring in new players to make the next step.

Evans said: “I have the go-ahead to go and make offers to five or six players that I have been talking to over the last few weeks.

"The chairman has given me the numbers where he sees the deals are at and I will present them over the course of Friday, either to the players directly or to their people who look after them, if there are any further negotiations then they will pick that up with the chairman.

“I have done my football talk and all the lads have intimated that they would really like to join us, but it will come to whether the deal makes it possible for them as well, but the talks are going well so we are hopeful.”

Evans is prepared to be patient for his first choice players but knows he needs a plan B as not all of his targets are likely to agree to join the club.

He said: “We are not going to sit on them forever, it is understandable that the lads want to see what their options are, I think if they were my sons I would want them to, but some of those lads we have been speaking to are already in receipt of offers from other clubs, they have been waiting a bit as well.

“We will give those lads the weekend and probably the early part of next week before we say, ‘if you are not going to be joining us, then we need to consider our alternatives'.

Asked about whether he’s ready for a third year, following those talks with the chairman, he said: “Yes, absolutely. I had a good few hours with the chairman on Thursday and it was positive.

“He gave me the numbers, we will never be the biggest payers, but we know that.

“Nothing changes for a lot of clubs, money around football is tighter than it has ever been because of the pandemic largely, in Leagues 1 and 2 we probably get squeezed more than everyone.

“We can’t start pre-season with six players like we did last year, we are keen to avoid that, so is the chairman, we are making our offers and considering last year we didn’t start making offers until mid-July, the chairman has taken a positive stance to get on with it.”

Evans has 12 pros on the books at present although two of those, John Akinde and Christian Maghoma, are available for transfer. He doesn’t have a senior goalkeeper and is chasing a left-back to replace departed Connor Ogilvie, a centre-half, midfielder and obviously some forwards.

It’s going to be another busy summer and the rumours are already in full swing.

The Gills were linked with numerous Ipswich players this week, including Luke Chambers, Alan Judge and even former keeper Tomas Holy.

Evans joked: “Paul Raynor (his assistant) told me we were going to take about eight of them! If they have a pulse we are linked with them!

“One media report at 5pm said we were linked with James Wilson, with information coming from a Gillingham insider. Earlier that day he had signed for someone else at 9am, he had already signed for Plymouth! Sources at Gillingham? Okay.

“All I say to our supporters is that nobody spoke about Oliver until he was going to sign, nobody about Dempsey, we just get on quietly, efficiently, and put our squad together.

“We are clear who we are speaking to and there are some who we will get over the line and others who will choose other options, that always happens, same when they sign for us, they turn down others.

“We know what our benchmark is, our benchmark is to be stronger than we were last season. Believe me, from January nobody in League 1 wanted to play Gillingham, I have had this from the top end, from Grant McCann (the Hull boss), those were his words, we knew it and that is why I knew if we got in the play-offs we would have won them.

“Everyone respected us and didn’t want to play us but we need to be stronger than that.”

Evans is certainly better placed this summer in comparison to the problems he encountered a year ago.

He said: “We had to train on a cricket stump (last summer) and as much as one or two of the lads quite like cricket, nobody foresaw some of the things going on, the contamination of the training ground, the pandemic, all sorts, but we came through it and it goes to show that when we did get back to our own facility from mid-January the work being done on the training ground was reflected with results on the pitch.

“We are all-systems go, the pitch is getting done as we speak, the training ground pitch will get topped up, that side of it, facility wise, there should hopefully be no set-backs.

Key to improving will be keeping the players like Vadaine Oliver and Kyle Dempsey at the club.

No firm offers have come in for anyone since the end of the season, according to Evans, who said: “I have been spoken to about values, but that is not my bag so I referred it to the boss, I think he has fielded one or two enquiries but he certainly hasn’t had anything come across his desk that indicates anyone is going to leave.”

Evans will hope to have his first new signings in the door towards the end of next week.

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