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Neil Harris facing a busy transfer window as he looks for up to 15 new players at Gillingham

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Gillingham boss Neil Harris admits this summer’s transfer window will be the toughest he’s faced - with up to 15 new signings required.

The club are heading to League 2 next season and Harris has a rebuild job to do with only seven players on contract, some of whom the manager doesn’t see as being part of his plans.

Busy summer ahead for Gillingham manager Neil Harris. Picture: KPI
Busy summer ahead for Gillingham manager Neil Harris. Picture: KPI

Of those four who have been offered contracts, Harris has also admitted the two senior players Jack Tucker and Robbie McKenzie may well be lured elsewhere.

Commenting this week, days after the club’s retained list was announced, Harris said: “It is going to be the toughest (transfer) window I have ever had in my management career so far because of the short amount of time we have got to build a (recruitment) department and knowing the levels and the amount of players we need to recruit.

“I want a squad of 20, which leaves a bit of space for the likes of Josh Chambers and Bailey Akehurst, plus a couple of the other younger lads like Joe Gbode, Sam Gale, people like that, Alex Giles, a chance to look at them in pre-season onwards.

“But 20 senior players is the target, we have seven under contract, it leaves 13 spaces, will all seven be here? Possibly, possibly not, we may need 14-15, which is not abnormal in the lower leagues but certainly not the way I like to do business. I like to build a culture where you build over a period of time.

“We have to find 15 players and as great as it is to bring (head of recruitment) Nicky Shorey in, with so many players out of contract, it is a massive task and certainly the biggest task I have faced in seven years of being a manager.

“We have offered a couple of contracts to players but they might not take them. You lose someone like (goalkeeper) Aaron Chapman you have to find another goalkeeper, we need to find two [with loanee Pontus Dahlberg heading back to his parent club].

“Players might accept contracts, players who have gone away to pastures new might end up touching base and coming back at some stage which we wouldn’t rule out, but we have to find 12-13 players, that is for sure. That is extremely tough to do in one window so quickly, time scales become key.

“Did I expect to look for so many? Yes, probably, I did when I took the job, I understood that, it is going to be tough.”

The countdown to the players returning for pre-season has already started.

They are back on June 22 and will be playing a friendly at Folkestone Invicta on Saturday, July 2, but it's unlikely any new faces will be in this coming week ahead.

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