Home   Medway   Sport   Article

Gillingham midfielder Stuart O'Keefe upbeat ahead of a return to training this week

More news, no ads


Stuart O’Keefe doesn’t know if he’ll have the captaincy at Gillingham next season - but the armband won’t change anything.

His qualities shone through last season in a squad manager Neil Harris admitted lacked leadership. Adding some clout in the changing room is something the Gills boss is working on - his first summer signing, Will Wright, emphasised that.

Stuart O'Keefe captained Gillingham last season under Neil Harris Picture: Andy Jones
Stuart O'Keefe captained Gillingham last season under Neil Harris Picture: Andy Jones

Since then Harris has added experienced midfielder Shaun Williams to the squad along with a young Dom Jefferies, who captained Brentford's B side last season. Wright wore the armband at Dagenham.

O’Keefe, 31, was made Gills captain by Harris when Kyle Dempsey jumped ship for Bolton mid-season last term. He was one of few that impressed during a dreadful campaign and ended the season taking the supporters’ player-of-the-year award.

He said: “Everyone knows what kind of person I am, what I can bring to the changing room on and off the pitch, if I have the armband then great but whether I do or don’t I can be a captain in other ways.

“The player-of-the-year award was a nice touch, it was nice that my performances were appreciated.”

Harris is clearly a big fan of O’Keefe and there is plenty of mutual respect. He’s confident the Gills boss can put together a competitive team this summer.

He said: “I play most weeks, the gaffer made me captain last year and personally it is a good place for me. It would be nice to get something positive out of Gillingham because it hasn’t been positive for the last year, 18 months.

“It is not going to be easy but there is a chance there for us, with the management we have and the way we finished the last season, with our results, we can definitely have positive thoughts to have a successful season.”

Dropping out of League 1 was O’Keefe’s first real taste of relegation and it means when he starts in League 2 next season he will have played at every level in the English pro game, appearing for Crystal Palace in the Premier League, clocking up plenty of experience in the Championship and playing close to 100 games in the third tier for the Gills.

He said: “I went down with Cardiff City but wasn’t really playing so this is my first year, the one I have been an integral part of and it was tough.

“It was such a long season and felt like it had been going on forever. Even when you look back to pre-season we had 20-odd days off because of Covid and we had the uncertainty of when Stevenage came in for Steve Evans and then the shocking result at home to Oxford, then the gaffer (Neil Harris) came in and turned things around.

“It was a very tough season mentally, it didn’t end how we wanted it to but we are upbeat, the lads are looking to get back in the best shape possible and hopefully have a positive season and put it right.

“It is new ground for me, it will be my first time in League 2. Hopefully we can get out of it straight away and we won’t have to go back there.

“We are all aware that the club wasn’t good enough, the team wasn’t and us players weren’t good enough. We all have to take responsibility for it in our own way, but it was what happened before Neil Harris came in and to be fair to him and Livers (the assistant manager), when they were in charge it was a much better place to be.

“They will be here this season, we are looking forward to being competitive and having positive results and getting Priestfield bouncing again. Hopefully we can come back and be positive, in a fresh state of mind.

“This season will be relentless, we will have to be robust. It will be tough for us but it’s one where we fancy ourselves to be pushing at the right end of the table.

“I am sure the manager is doing his utmost with the chairman to get signings across the line and build a really competitive squad to get out of the league.

“I think the boys have faith in the gaffer to get it sorted. It is difficult to get the signings through the door straight away, people are away, there are not millions floating around. But we know the situation, everyone has got full faith to get it sorted and to get a competitive squad out come July.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More