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Mark Bonner’s Gillingham take on Neil Harris’ Millwall in a pre-season match on Saturday –1pm kick-off at Priestfield

Gillingham return to action at Priestfield this weekend with a new manager at the helm who’s thrilled at the backing they’ve had from supporters this summer.

Last season’s promotion hopes drained away as fans were starved of goals but there’s fresh optimism as Mark Bonner looks to put things right on the pitch.

Mark Bonner takes charge at Priestield for the first time this Saturday Picture: Ben Phillips
Mark Bonner takes charge at Priestield for the first time this Saturday Picture: Ben Phillips

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Bonner - who replaced outgoing boss Stephen Clemence in early May - finally gets the chance to take his seat in the home dugout at Priestfield this Saturday against the man who began last season at the helm, Neil Harris.

Now based in Gillingham, Bonner has been able to see close up how excited everyone is for the new campaign, with bumper season ticket sales reflecting that enthusiasm.

He said: “We have made some good signings and the mood in the club, the ownership, everything is really positive at the moment. It is great that there will be really good numbers here.

“What is important is that not only are there a lot of people here but we want a lot of people here enjoying it, that’s the main thing, going home happy. The more that we can get here, great, but in the end we want that number to keep growing all season.

“There is optimism around, which is good, momentum looks good and we have got to click onto that. I think people see that there is a basis of a team that can do something.”

The Millwall game was agreed between the Gills and the south London club prior to Harris returning to take over the Championship side.

Harris was happy to keep the game on and said in a recent interview: “In relation to it being my former club, it makes absolutely no difference to me. There are some people I will be pleased to see and some people I won’t be pleased to see.

“In relation to the game itself, the most important thing is the fixture is competitive and the location is close for both parties.”

In a rollercoaster season for Harris, he was sacked by the Gills in October, took over from Bonner at Cambridge United in December before returning to his old club Millwall in February, where he guided them to Championship safety in impressive fashion.

It will be the first of two games that the Gills play against Championship opposition at Priestfield, with this weekend’s match kicking off at 1pm. Watford then visit ME7 next Saturday.

Mark Bonner and former Gillingham boss Neil Harris will be reacquainted this weekend Picture: Julian_KPI
Mark Bonner and former Gillingham boss Neil Harris will be reacquainted this weekend Picture: Julian_KPI

Bonner has had two weeks to prepare his team for the opening pre-season match, having had eight weeks to settle into the job before the players returned to training.

The Gills boss has moved to Gillingham, which has given him the chance to meet plenty of fans in numerous locations.

“I came across some of them at the airport in Germany (during his trip to watch the England versus Serbia match in Euro 2024) and I’ve seen a few when I’ve been shopping in Asda,” he said.

“I was in the Range getting a few bits for my flat and bumped into someone in there who was buying some nice pots and plants and I was getting some saucepans! I have met a few and it has been great.

“I met hundreds of supporters when we launched the kit in the club shop and next day was the NHS Children’s Hospital fun day here. I was there for that and so I met loads of people.

“Everyone seems optimistic, happy and welcoming firstly and sounds excited for the season. I think everyone has just referenced how long a break it’s seemed this year.

“Everyone seems happy now but we know the only way to keep people happy is by winning games and doing well. We need to do that, really - that’s the aim.”

Gillingham, meanwhile, have confirmed their matchday prices for games in League 2 this season, with a £1 increase on last year’s admission.

Tickets are available online for all home league games up until Christmas with adult prices in the Rainham End costing £23.

Medway Stand and Gordon Road Stand adult prices range from £23-26. Senior tickets start from £20, 18-21-year-olds will pay from £15, under-18s from £11 and under-14s - who must be accompanied by an over-18 - pay between £8 and £11.

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