Published: 12:00, 06 September 2019
Ben Pringle became Steve Evans' 15th summer signing in what has been massive overhaul at Priestfield.
Evans has been working overtime to try and do what his recent predecessors have been unable to achieve, to turn the Gills into a team that can challenge at the top of League 1, with a budget that he has described himself as “bottom four.”
Monday's transfer deadline passed with no new arrivals as Evans and the Gills were left frustrated while negotiating with several players. The manager said he was unwilling to jeopardise the club’s financial future.
He was already looking at free agents - of which there are many - and landed one of those on Wednesday after clinching the signing of Ben Pringle.
One of his earlier signings, Nathan Thomas, returned north after failing to settle but others have already shown they can be key men for the Gills this season.
Southampton loanee Alfie Jones began pre-season playing in central defence but has blossomed since Evans put him in midfield once the League 1 campaign kicked off. He could be a real linchpin for the Gills this season.
Alex Jakubiak, another loanee, is a bundle of energy upfront, while Olly Lee showed class and a fine touch infront of goal after making his return to the club at the weekend, on loan from SPL side Hearts.
There are also high hopes for another Southampton loanee Tom O'Connor, making his Football League debut on Saturday, plugging the gap at left-back.
With five loan players registered, the Gills were always likely to prefer to make permanent deals before and after the transfer window closed. Pringle's signature is unlikely to be the last in the coming days as Evans looks to strengthen his forward department.
The surprise sale of Elliott List to Stevenage enabled him some leverage, along with the decision to cancel the contracts of Gabriel Zakuani and Darren Oldaker. Both players have yet to declare their next moves as they join the clammer of players without deals that are looking for clubs.
Evans’ squad is smaller now and still includes Bradley Garmston, who he had made available for transfer and a handful of youngsters. Take them out of the equation and he’s left with 19 senior pros - plus teenage keeper Joe Walsh, who made his first senior appearance in the week.
Evans - who officially started the job on June 1 - isn't short of contacts, as his summer deals have shown, but now we await to see if anyone else arrives in the coming days.
In a message to fans posted on the Gills website this week, Evans said: "We cannot, indeed we will not, add players for the sake of making a signing or two.
"We have a bottom four budget for League 1 so there lays further challenges as we must always balance the budget numbers."
Here’s the full list of movers since the end of last season;
Former club: Tottenham
Joined: May 31
Steve Evans revealed his first signing on the day he was officially announced as Gills’ new manager, on May 23. After previously impressing on loan, Ogilvie didn’t need much persuading to return permanently under the new boss, after ending his time at Tottenham.
Former club: Brentford
Joined: June 4
Signed from Brentford on a two-year deal after successful loan spells with Carlisle and Bristol Rovers in the previous two seasons. His clean-sheet record at Rovers last season was up there with the best in League 1 and was key to their survival.
Former club: Rangers
Joined: June 8
Following Luke O’Neill’s departure, the Gills needed a new right-back and Steve Evans went up to his native Scotland to find his man. Hodson spent last season with St Mirren in the SPL after joining them on loan from Rangers, where he made 17 league appearances.
Former club: Cardiff City
Joined: June 11
Adds experience to the Gills midfield. He’s had a handful of loan spells in the last few years and hopes to now settle at Priestfield. Helped Crystal Palace to promotion from the Championship in the 2012/13 season and played 14 games for them in the Premier League.
Former club: Manchester United
Joined: June 13
Comes from a family of footballers, with brothers playing at West Brom and Arsenal. Brought in from Manchester United with a glowing reference from their coach Nicky Butt. Injury has hampered his first month at the Gills but has plenty of potential.
Former club: MK Dons
Joined: June 24
The Malian international played 26 games for the Dons last season to help them win promotion from League 2. He became a free agent in the summer after their manager needed to make room for additional signings. At 6ft 5inch he’s a real presence.
Former club: Bournemouth
Joined: June 26
The 6ft frontman signed a new two-year deal with Premier League Bournemouth in May and joined Gills on a season-long loan. Ndjoli has yet to make a first team appearance for the Cherries but played on loan at Kilmanock last season in the SPL.
Former club: Sheffield United
Joined: July 2
He signed on a season-long loan but left after just three weeks. Played a few pre-season matches but was sent back to the Blades after failing to settle. He linked back up with Carlisle United, where he had impressed on loan last season.
Former club: Southampton
Joined: July 3
He impressed during a loan spell at St Mirren in Scotland in the first half of last season, where he made 15 appearances, playing in the same team as Matty Willock and Lee Hodson. Signed on loan for the season and has started to look like a class-act in the Gills midfield.
Former club: Charlton
Joined: July 25
Just one league start so far for the former Charlton winger but will no doubt play a part this season. He’s previously been a threat in games against the Gills, having played for Bradford, Port Vale and Coventry in recent seasons.
Former club: Colchester
Joined: July 25
Scored a couple of goals against the Gills for Colchester last pre-season but finished the 2018/19 campaign with just two league goals to his name. The Gills management team believe they can get goals from him and he proved that with a handful in pre-season.
Former club: Watford
Joined: July 26
Here at Gills on a season-long loan with three goals to his name already and an assist at the weekend for Brandon Hanlan. A lively forward who can play out wide or up top. Yet to make his mark at Watford and looking to prove a point here.
Former club: Southampton
Joined: August 29
The youngster can play anywhere down the left-flank and made his debut as full-back for the Gills on Saturday. He’s joined on a half-season loan from Southampton, hoping to make the same kind of impact as Saints team-mate Alfie Jones.
Former club: Hearts
Joined: August 29
Didn’t make much of an impact during his last loan, back then joining as a youngster from West Ham. But his return to the club on Saturday, against Bolton, saw the Hearts midfielder make a great impression, with two well-taken goals in an influential display.
Former club: Preston
Joined: September 4
The latest addition to Steve Evans' side and a player he has experienced plenty of joy with in the past. Evans plucked him out of the reserves at Rotherham and the player went onto become a key player for the Millers during their rise from League 2 to the Championship.
And the departures;
Luke O’Neill, Billy Bingham, Alex Lacey, Ryan Huckle, Tom Hadler, Louie Catherall, Tomas Holy, Ben Chapman, Aaron Simpson, Tom Eaves, Dean Parrett, Nathan Thomas, Callum Reilly, Josh Rees, Darren Oldaker, Elliott List, Gabriel Zakuani, Miguel Scarlett, Bradley Stevenson.
More by this authorLuke Cawdell