Published: 00:00, 19 December 2019
| Updated: 08:26, 19 December 2019
Gillingham boss Steve Evans is hopeful of keeping Southampton loan pair Tom O’Connor and Alfie Jones for the remainder of the season.
O’Connor’s deal expires on January 1 and although Jones has agreed a loan move until the end of the season the Saints have the right to recall him next month.
Both have impressed during their stay at Priestfield, with the pair starting regularly in Evans’ League 1 side.
Evans said: “Both lads love it here and they have both said they would like to stay.”
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Twenty-year-old O’Connor has been capped at under-21 level for the first time by the Republic of Ireland since joining the Gills and has been an ever-present under Evans, starting out at left-back before moving into midfield more recently.
Speaking about the likeable youngster, Evans said: “I think he is keen to stay and the people that look after Tom are keen for him to stay.
“We want him to stay, but it’s up to Southampton.”
O’Connor had captained Saints’ under-23 team but felt he needed to make a move out on loan after being left out during pre-season for the first team.
Evans added: “He is at a good level, he is playing games. There is always a temptation with the lads that when they do well at one level to then choose a club at a higher level and then two months later they are severely regretting it when they are playing in the under-23s, which is worse than where they were at Southampton.”
The Saints are understood to be making a decision on their loan players next week.
Jones, 22, has been a key man in the side, protecting the Gills’ defence with his role in midfield.
Evans said: “Alfie is on a deal until the end of the season. As a parent club, Southampton have the right to stop that. We have no reason to think they will. Alfie is loving every minute of it.”
Jones’ form is keeping Frenchman Ouss Cisse out of the Gills squad. The former MK Dons player hasn’t played in the league since starting the opening two games of the season.
Evans said: “At the moment, with the way we are playing, it’s him or Alfie. Alfie has been in better form, simple as that.
“People see him on and off the bench but when you pick your bench you have to cover eventualities, to cover problems in different areas. We have people we can move around in midfield and sometimes he has lost out.
“He has not come into my office, he is a real good professional. He will be frustrated at not playing but by the same token, if he is honest, he will say that Alfie Jones has been excellent for us.”
Evans, meanwhile, has already been in contact with Hearts boss Daniel Stendel after his recent appointment at the Edinburgh club. The Gills have their midfielder Olly Lee on loan.
On his situation, Evans said: “They are going to sit down and make their decisions like we are.
“Olly would want to see what Hearts are thinking first and we get that but he is absolutely loving it here. His wife and child come to every game and I always see them in the lounge, they are nice people.”
Last week the Gills boss attended the under-23 game between Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City, prompting fans to speculate who he was watching. Former Gills loanee Dominic Samuel scored in that game for Rovers.
Evans wouldn’t comment on contracted players but will be hoping to be active when the January transfer window opens.
He’ll be meeting chairman Paul Scally shortly after the game against Ipswich on Boxing Day.
Evans said: “I will have a series of meetings with the chairman, I have managed to pin him down!
“I don’t think he has ever seen anyone camp in the grounds of his house but if he doesn’t see me I will be pitching the tent and peering in through the window!”