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Striker Lewis Walker misses Gillingham's opening day match against AFC Wimbledon after international clearance delay

Gillingham manager Neil Harris blamed the Italian FA after being unable to name newly-signed striker Lewis Walker in their season opener.

Walker’s last registration was with the Italian Football Association having spent the past two seasons playing football for Serie C side Como and most recently Serie D outfit Carpi. The player’s transfer was announced on the Friday before their game at Wimbledon.

Striker Lewis Walker in action for Gillingham. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Striker Lewis Walker in action for Gillingham. Picture: Barry Goodwin

International clearance was needed but it didn’t happen in time, leaving the Gills to rely on youth player Joe Gbode as their back-up striker.

Harris spoke of his frustration at leaving his new player Walker out of the squad for their first game of the League 2 season having spent the summer trying to sign the 24-year-old former Derby and QPR striker.

He said: “Because of international clearance we couldn’t involve Lewis Walker, a player we have chased for four weeks. We finally got him over the line but couldn’t involve him because the Italian FA were too slow with their paperwork and we had to have a youth player involved.”

Walker played in Gills’ opening two pre-season games before a spell training with AFC Wimbledon. He returned to Priestfield to sign a permanent deal.

“It has been a long drawn out process with Lewis,” said the manager.

“He came in with us for two weeks, we tried to sign him during that two-week period.

“We knew that (he would go somewhere else on trial) and understood that. In the end both clubs wanted to sign him, he has come to us.

“He is a player who can play upfront on his own, can play as a pair, he is not a target man but he can compete in the air, he is good down the sides, a good football brain, he is very athletic.”

Walker hasn’t played much football in England, with limited chances at Derby and QPR before playing 13 games on loan at Aldershot. Time in Italy has helped with his development but Harris knows the player has some work to do.

He said: “At 24 we think he is a couple of years behind, development wise. He has spent a long time in 23s football and then he has been playing abroad, at a good level in Italy. We are pleased to take him in and give him a home, we look forward to working with him.”

The Gills will hope to have him involved this coming Saturday when they host Rochdale.

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