Published: 00:00, 10 June 2016
Gillingham have former Chelsea and England midfielder Dennis Wise to thank for his role in bringing promising youngster Darren Oldaker to the club.
Oldaker, 17, had ended an unhappy spell in the QPR youth set-up and was ready to quit football before Wise picked up the phone and informed the Gills of his availability.
Within days of a trial, midfielder Oldaker was signed up on scholarship terms. That was just a year ago and after signing a two-year professional deal last week, with the option of an additional year, he is on the fast-track to Gills’ first-team.
The Surrey-based teenager said: “When I left QPR, my dad spoke to Dennis Wise. His son was at QPR as well. Dennis called up Gillingham and got me a trial and then I ended up signing my scholarship with them within a week.
“My dad sent Dennis a message to say thank you and I thanked him myself as soon as I came to the club.
“I wasn’t enjoying it at QPR and told my dad I wanted to leave two years before I did. When I left I wasn’t thinking about playing football, I was about to stop. I didn’t want to play any more."
It didn’t take Oldaker long to make an impression on first-team boss Justin Edinburgh. He was on the bench at Port Vale in August, just a month after leaving school.
It was his 25-yard free-kick against Ebbsfleet at Priestfield in the FA Youth Cup in November that helped boost his reputation even further.
Oldaker said: “To have landed myself a professional contract a year after coming out of school is massive. I am buzzing. I couldn’t have imagined getting to this stage so quick.”