Published: 06:00, 07 June 2021
Margate manager Jay Saunders says he is “pretty much” there with his squad after landing ex-Gillingham captain Doug Loft.
Loft became Saunders’ seventh new signing and could be the most important of the lot.
At 34, the Maidstone-born midfielder brings bags of experience after a Football League career with the likes of Brighton, Port Vale and Gillingham, spending two seasons at Priestfield from 2014-16.
He’s joined the Gate from Billericay and Saunders is delighted to get his man.
“I’ve been looking to add some experience to our squad and Doug fits the bill with the quality he brings,” Saunders told Gate’s website.
“Doug will be a great character to have in the dressing room, someone for our players - especially the younger ones - to learn from and I think he will give us that added edge in the heart of our midfield.”
Loft has followed Ricay team-mate Lewis Knight to Hartsdown Park.
Big defender Knight - who spent the 2019/20 season at Maidstone - offers Saunders a presence in both boxes.
“Lewis is a well-rounded, experienced centre-back who has played a lot of games at a higher level and can bring lots our team and squad,” said the Blues boss.
Saunders also predicated Lewis to become “a real leader and favourite in a Gate shirt”.
The additions of Loft and Knight take Margate’s summer signings to seven.
Ben Greenhalgh was the first new face announced, with winger James Bessey-Saldanha, striker Dan Thompson, utility man Mo Kamara and left-back Tommy Cooney also on board.
“I think I’m pretty much there with the squad,” said Saunders. "Lewis and Doug were two key final ones for me who I had spoken to for a while.
“But never say never, there will be a couple more we look at and add through pre-season but I’m keen to make sure we take care and progress the youngsters coming through.
“People like George Wilkinson, Charlie Hatton, George Lamb and Fynn Rutherford, who have impressed already and continue to do so.
“There’s a handful of really talented players who I’m excited to work with and it is nice to go into pre-season friendlies with a such a group.”
Margate have retained the core of last season’s Isthmian Premier squad but striker Noel Leighton has been released.
“I am really pleased with my squad,” said Saunders.
“With no disrespect to the group we had last year, but I think we’re in a better position this season.
“Given the way things have been, we have had longer to put a side together and more players have been available, which has worked well for us.”