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Gillingham boss Steve Lovell names former Stoke City and Peterborough United man Gabriel Zakuani as new captain

By Luke Cawdell

Picking experienced defender Gabriel Zakuani as Gillingham’s new captain wasn’t a hard choice for boss Steve Lovell.

He announced his decision to hand Zakuani the captaincy to his squad before Tuesday night’s friendly at Bromley.

Zakuani fills the void left by Lee Martin following his release by the club at the end of last season.

Gillingham defender Gabriel Zakuani wearing the captain's armband against former club Peterborough last season Picture: Andy Jones
Gillingham defender Gabriel Zakuani wearing the captain's armband against former club Peterborough last season Picture: Andy Jones

Speaking about his choice of captain, Lovell said: “He was tremendous last year for us, all of the players look up to him and respect him, he is a great lad and he is still performing well at centre-half.

“I think he is a great professional, someone I can relate to and someone the players can talk to.

“He understands the game, he has been around it a long time and it was not a difficult decision to make. I am pleased that he wants to do it and that’s great.”

Zakuani moved to the Gills last summer, to help sure up the division’s worst defence, and he did just that.

The DR Congo international may not be the loudest in the dressing room but Lovell knows the players look up to him, saying: “He is not a screamer and a shouter, he will talk to players and try and help them along but it is about leading by example.

"He will go in where others won’t and that is a quality that he has got, I am sure he will do the same this year and have another good year with us.”

Zakuani turned 32 at the end of May and has plenty left in the tank.

The defender signed a new two-year deal with the Gills this summer and Lovell spoke then about how they will look to get the most out of him.

He said: “I know how to look after him and we monitor him so he does what he needs to do but he does that himself, he is a real pro and is a fit lad.

“He has signed for us for a couple of years and it’s a great signing because he is brilliant around the dressing room and with the lads. Everybody could see what effect he had on the field for us last year.

“He is a real true defender. He and Max (Ehmer) had a tremendous partnership last year.”

Ehmer and Zakuani were Lovell’s first-pick pairing at the back but the manager insists the door is open to challengers now, with Alex Lacey desperate to get involved.

“If we need to play three at the back then were do have options,” said the Gills boss.

“All of the centre halves in the club have got a chance. They are all fighting to get into the team for August 4 (the season opener).”

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