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Former Millwall pair Shaun Williams and Aiden O'Brien enjoying their season back playing with Neil Harris at Gillingham

Gillingham manager Neil Harris is confident midfielder Shaun Williams has at least another season in him.

The 36-year-old has been a stand-out player for Harris’ side in recent weeks and could play a part in a promotion push next season if the Gills can convince him to extend his Priestfield stay.

Shaun Williams celebrates his goal against Tranmere
Shaun Williams celebrates his goal against Tranmere

Williams signed in the summer on a one-year deal, after a season with Portsmouth, having previously played under Harris at Millwall.

Harris said: “Shaun has not been one that has been blessed with pace, he is not a sprinter, touch wood he has been relatively lucky with injuries over his career and certainly the last four or five years.

“As he gets older, he has managed himself different, he has different gym programmes to the lads, his diet has slightly changed, he now understands when he needs to play and when he doesn’t and he understands when I need him and when I don’t need him and that wasn’t always the case!

“He always wanted to play even if I wanted to take him out, he didn’t always understand it, but he is great and he understands his role in the group.

“He can certainly play next year and possibly the year after and I think with players once you get past 30, certainly 34, it becomes year after year, your body changes so quickly.”

Harris was asked about next season and said: “He is not contracted for next year but he is playing very well at the moment.”

Williams has been captaining Harris’ League 2 side while Stuart O’Keefe has been left out.

It was a tough first half of the season for the experienced campaigner - who has over 400 league appearances under his belt - but he’s flourished with more quality around him.

Shaun Williams' first goal for Gillingham came against Crawley
Shaun Williams' first goal for Gillingham came against Crawley

Harris said: “Shaun would be the first to admit that his performances in the first half of the season probably mirrored the team, slightly below par, but where we weren’t a very good team he maybe didn’t flourish.

“We adjusted the team in January and in my opinion he's been one of our best players in the second half of the season, it is not a coincidence is it that we have improved and he has really started to shine.

“He is a different type of leader to Stuey, he is more silent in his leadership, he leads by composure and quality and probably calmness with him. He has done really well for us.”

Williams isn’t the only former Millwall man to have impressed.

Striker Aiden O’Brien - on loan from Shrewsbury - got his first Gills goal in midweek.

He’s another to have played under the Gills boss at Millwall and when coming through the Lions’ academy he was cleaning Harris’ boots.

Was he any good? “No - he was terrible!” joked the Gills manager, of the former apprentice.

O’Brien, now 29, went onto play over 200 games for Millwall and after that had permanent moves to Sunderland, Portsmouth and more recently Shrewsbury.

He’s enjoying being back closer to his family and with a manager he knows well.

Aiden O'Brien is on loan with Gillingham from Shrewsbury Town
Aiden O'Brien is on loan with Gillingham from Shrewsbury Town

Harris is delighted to be working with him again. No doubt he’ll be another player the club will be keen to sign on next season.

O’Brien got the winner on Tuesday night against Crewe and Harris said: “I was really pleased for him to score, he is a guy who puts himself under pressure to score goals, even when he plays wide he feels he should have an impact.

“He has found himself some opportunities, by making them himself or by getting on the end of things.

“For me, Aiden O’Brien is at his best when he has a smile on his face and he is getting opportunities, because he is playing on the front foot, playing with freedom and energy, and he certainly did it the other night.

“He has come to help us to the end of the season and has done very well so far but I know there is more to come from Aiden.”

O’Brien has spoken of his enjoyment at the Gills and playing under Harris again.

Harris said: “He knows what he is going to get in my changing room, he knows how I work and I didn’t start him the other night, but he knows why, what my thought process was and plan, he trusts me.”

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