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Gillingham youngster Darren Oldaker heeding boss Steve Lovell's advice with improved work rate

Gillingham boss Steve Lovell loves to have characters like Darren Oldaker around the place and is beginning to like the look of him as a footballer too.

Oldaker, who turned pro at the age of 17, has all the skills but Lovell has been demanding more from the player.

A bright showing off the bench against Charlton was further proof for Lovell that the message is getting through.

Darren Oldaker has joined Hythe Town on loan Picture: Gary Browne
Darren Oldaker has joined Hythe Town on loan Picture: Gary Browne

“He came on and I was glad for him,” said the Gillingham manager.

“I have been on to him for weeks and weeks about the work rate but he has been knuckling down and working hard.

“We all know what a good player he is with the ball and defensively against Charlton he was brilliant. He was running back and tackling and getting stuck in.

“The penny is starting to drop with these boys, knowing they can’t just get by on ability alone, you have to work hard. I was pleased for DJ."

Oldaker, who turned 19 on Thursday, was handed his first pro contract early, under former boss Justin Edinburgh.

“I keep thinking he is a 24-25 old pro,” said Lovell. “It’s the way he is, he mixes with all the pros and he is a good lad. He’s a character. Patto (assistant Mark Patterson) said to me the other day, he is only 18. You forget about that because he is a mature 18 on the football field.

“But he has to understand the other side of it, like Conor Wilkinson is now doing. It is something that has to be done because if it isn’t then the whole engine stops."

Oldaker may be a youngster in the squad but he’s not shy. He’s the kind of person Lovell knows every team needs.

He said: “He is a nice boy and I like him. All you want is the best for them, you try and make them understand that this is the way forward and hopefully they take it on board.

“He is funny and it is lovely to have them (players) around the football club.

“I remember when I played there were characters around the dressing room, I always remember Peter Heritage who played here. He was one of the funniest men I have ever met in my life. when he went it was like I had lost my wife!

“To have those characters around helps the dressing room. He is definitely one of them.”

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