Gillingham kick-off their pre-season campaign this weekend and the club’s best young scholars will be at the forefront of the action.
Boss Neil Harris is keen to integrate some promising youth players with the senior set-up and, with the first-team recruitment process ongoing, it’s a chance for them to shine.
The Gills head to Isthmian Premier Folkestone Invicta for a friendly match on Saturday where senior players, trialists and scholars will all be in action.
Harris said: “I don’t want to block the pathway for four or five young players that I am really excited about over the first couple of weeks of pre-season.
“I am really excited about seeing them, I am not going to put pressure on the academy group, they are young men.
“But I do give a lot of opportunity to young players and I will continue to do that over the course of the season if the players are ready.
“We have to make sure, as always, that we get the balance right between protecting the players from doing too much too soon, if they are not ready, mentally and physically, then also giving that opportunity to see players with a mentality that if they are good enough they are old enough.
“Over the course of the next couple of weeks, definitely, all of the second-year scholars will have an opportunity to impress me and a lot of them will get an opportunity to impress in the first game or two.”
Harris will watch his men play a couple of games behind-closed-doors as well as over the next four Saturdays, with matches open to fans. A Gills XI will also be in action at Deal Town on Tuesday night.
The Gills remain light on numbers although the recruitment process is gathering pace.
Attack-minded player Scott Kashket arrived after his release from Crewe Alexandra while goalkeepers Ashley Maynard-Brewer and Jake Turner have been signed in the last couple of days.
Gillingham have 13 first-team players on contract, with Henry Woods leaving this week for Maidstone United. Harris has had trialists in training over the last few days and they are expected to feature against Folkestone.
He said: “We’ve got a small group at the moment but it’s a great group with a really strong spirit and atmosphere. They’re really good lads and players.
“I know the quality of the youth team coming through, they may not be ready at the moment, but I can take pride in watching them.
“I’m really upbeat because I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen.”