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Gillingham youth team striker Joe Gbode pushing for a role in the senior team

Youth striker Joe Gbode is pushing for a place in the Gillingham first team this season.

The 17-year-old has been the standout performer from the youth team players taking part in games during pre-season.

Joe Gbode held his own against League 1 Portsmouth Picture: Barry Goodwin
Joe Gbode held his own against League 1 Portsmouth Picture: Barry Goodwin

Gbode hassled the Portsmouth defence on Saturday and gave Premier League side Crystal Palace some problems on Tuesday.

Harris will send the striker out on loan if he’s not going to get much action with the senior set-up, but performances over the summer have showed he could get involved.

Although reluctant to big up his youth players and put any unwanted pressure on teenage shoulders, Harris sees a lot in Gbode he likes, saying: “He deserves to be in the group at the moment because he was outstanding again when he came on [against Palace].

“Other young lads may be getting exposure at the moment because we need to fill minutes in teams, they are not ready for first-team football.

“I don’t like talking about the young lads individually, but we are at a stage now after four weeks to say that Joe has done really well with us. Physically he is a great shape, when he plays under-18 football he is a bully, he is a handful.

“We have enjoyed having him around the group. It’s suited us to have him around, it has been great for him to have that experience.

“If we can’t involve him in the match minutes regularly then Joe will go on loan.”

It could be the same for first-year pro Bailey Akehurst, having seen left-back Ryan Law join the squad to compete with David Tutonda. Fellow youngster Freddie Carter is another who has impressed.

Harris said: “They are players that we like. It is making sure the players have a plan of development and if they are not going to play regularly for us I am not going to keep them in the building just to make up 18 players.

“If I feel I have got cover in that position they will go straight out on loan.”

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