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Interviews

Gaffer reflects on publication of retained list

Neil Harris explains the procedure behind the release of a retained list.

13 May 2022

The retained list was released by the club at the start of the week, and Neil Harris has been explaining the procedure behind it, and how he hopes to bring through more academy graduates in the future.

Neil Harris has been discussing some of his decisions that made up the contents of the club’s retained list earlier in the week.

The likes of Aaron Chapman, Vadaine Oliver, Ryan Jackson and Christian Maghoma will be leaving the club while Robbie McKenzie and Jack Tucker have been offered new deals. Gerald Sithole and Harvey Lintott will be leaving ME7, but the manager hasn’t given up hope on tempting Ben Thompson to stay at Priestfield, with a Danny Lloyd deal not beyond the realms of possibility.

Speaking to the club earlier in the week, he said: “It was good to have chats with people, I drove home on Monday and it was a reflection time for me, but by Tuesday I was good again.

“If you are honest with players, and I always am, it’s just another conversation. Yes, you have to deliver bad news and it is hard because if you care, and I care about the players that play for me, but you also deliver good news, which is the flip side of it.

“Loan boys I spoke to and whether they had a future with us or didn’t, or wanted to go back to their parent clubs to develop. I spoke to all five of them to give some feedback and how we might be able to help moving forwards.

“For the players leaving, I spoke to the majority in person on the Sunday or Monday. It’s tough because you have to do a retained and released list, legally by EFL rules. Sometimes things are not quite as they look, using Jack Tucker as an example. He’s 22, so under 24, we have made him a contract offer to stay. He will have interest from elsewhere but we turned down a good bid in January, on my first day in.

“To retain compensation rights we have to offer Jack a contract, but he might be one that departs in the summer because of higher interest. Danny Lloyd is another one who is out of contract, I get on extremely well with him and I’m very fond of. He did extremely well, albeit only a game and a half of Football when he was fit [under Neil's tenure]. He is one I might like to keep at the Football Club but he’s not going to be fit and available until November time so he has to go on the released list because it has to be clear.

“It’s not always as clear as it looks, but we have to do that for league purposes. It gives a little bit of clarity to players in some incidences, players that are moving on I would like to thank who have given their all for me and I wish them luck for the future.

“And for the players that are staying with us then I look forward to working with them.”

The manager explained that, on occasions, family circumstance also plays a part in a decision making process.

“Family comes first for me in all walks of life,” he added. “As much as I want to win, but if someone has been awake all night in A + E because their child is not well, can they play on a Saturday afternoon? It might be really difficult and they may have to go on the bench and just give us what they’ve got.

“For someone like Chappy, if you take my tenure from February 1, he has done really well, but he is located in Sheffield. He’s been here for a year, done well for me, but loads of things go on behind the scenes. When I come out and say that some players need to go, some need to come in and rebuild, when you see players released it doesn’t mean I don’t like them or don’t want them to stay, it's just logistically it may not work financially, some just want a change.

“It does work both ways, I’ve had conversations with players under contract aswell. All seven players know where they stand as do Josh Chambers and Bailey Akehurst on their contract offers. There are ongoing conversations with agents obviously, but all seven [contracted players] know what is expected of them and whether their future lies here or not.

“Obviously we’ve let Gerald and Harvey go because we didn’t feel they would play enough games in the first team next year to warrant proper first team contracts. Jack Tucker, in my opinion, will end up leaving the Football Club.

“Every Gillingham fan wants to see 11 Gillingham homegrown players on the Football pitch. Is it possible? Not this season obviously, and it won’t be next season, but in the future that’s what we would like to see, and for the Football Club to be sustainable and run at the best level we can, we need to produce players.

“Josh and Bailey staying is important for me and I look forward to working with them. They both have a long way to go to be first-team regulars in the future, both have played in the first team this year, and we see potential in them, but to be ready to step in physically and mentally next season, it’s a long-term plan and thought process to be in and around the group.

“If they are capable and good enough they stay around the group, if they don’t they will have a games programme, and a loan programme, that develops them and we have a clear plan of action for the young players which I feel hasn’t happened in previous seasons.”


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