Published: 06:00, 13 April 2020
Gillingham’s teenage goalkeeper Joe Walsh will see regular football somewhere next season.
Boss Steve Evans wants him playing, either with the Gills or out on loan.
The keeper, who has just turned 18, has been understudy to first choice stopper Jack Bonham this season but Evans rates him highly.
Assuming the current season resumes, Walsh could well make his Football League debut for the Gills, if their push for the play-offs falters.
“I think there will be a decision to be made about Joe,” said the Gills boss.
“He certainly won’t have another year sitting on the bench. In pre-season it will be a case of looking to see if Jack Bonham is still as being the preferred one at this stage, if he is then Joe will go out on loan.”
If Walsh does head out on loan, Evans wants him playing at a high level.
“He won’t be going on loan to three or four levels down,” Evans said.
“I don’t want managers three levels below saying ‘can we have Joe Walsh next year?’ That’s not going to happen.
“Joe Walsh could go into the National League or League 2 and play every week. He has everything in the locker to play at our level very comfortably.”
Walsh has only made three senior appearances for the Gills so far, all in the group stage of the Football Trophy.
Evans will give him a chance in the league if he can.
He said: “He will play at our level the minute we can’t reach those play-offs, if that happens, and he will get the opportunity to make his proper debut and play football. We will then sit down and if he does well we have to be honest.
“If Jack Bonham is at the top of his game then he has one hell of a benchmark to reach. If he reaches that at 18 I am the type of manager to play him, simple as that.”
Evans isn’t afraid to rely on young players if he feels they are ready, proving that at Gillingham with Jack Tucker, who has come from nowhere to being a regular at the heart of the defence.
“There are kids I played at Leeds,” Evans recalled.
“Ronaldo Vieira and Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who is now playing for Burnley in the Premier League, I gave kids like that their debut.”
Vieira made his Leeds debut just two days after agreeing his first professional contract with the West Yorkshire side.
Peacock-Farrell, the Northern Ireland international goalkeeper, made his debut under Evans in the Championship.
“I never thought about their age,” Evans continued.
“I just looked at them training and looked at them playing and I thought ‘if you are good enough you are old enough’.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether you are18 or 28.
“When Joe Walsh comes back in for pre-season, it will be “is it Joe Walsh or Jack Bonham?” If it is going to be Joe Walsh then I would expect the nature of Jack Bonham to fight to get is shirt back. If it is going to be Jack Bonham then we will need Joe Walsh to go and play some football.”