Neil Harris chats to the club website as pre-season plans near completion.
Gillingham manager Neil Harris spoke exclusively to the club website to reflect on last season as well as giving some interesting insight into his recruitment and pre-season plans for the 2023/24 campaign.
During his chat with the media team, Harris spoke about some interesting friendlies that the club have lined up, comings and goings in the changing room and he also gave a special mention to the departing player Stuart O’Keefe.
Here is what he had to say...
Looking back on last season
“The first half of the season was difficult and we didn’t hit the levels that we hoped we would after relegation. We needed a transfer window to adjust the squad that we put together over the summer.
“In January we got new ownership and a new infrastructure in the football department and we got new personnel in the changing room. The second-half of the season was outstanding. We finished on a massive high. There was a buzz around the ground and we had a great away following, fans were excited to watch their team again.”
After two successful loan spells Conor Masterson signs a permanent contract
“We tried to get Conor last summer, we managed to get him in January on loan purely because of the relationship we had when he was with us the previous season.
“He is a good fit for us and I am really pleased to work with him. He is still a young man at 24 in football-terms and he we wants to practice and learn every day.
“He is a big signing for the football club and a big statement of intent for us that we are able and want to keep players who perform well for us. As a character and a young man he is top class and he brings so much to the changing room.”
“We know we need four or five main players to come in to the core group. I’m talking about players coming in who add to what we have got and are at a level to go out and play. We want to put pressure on the regular starters and it is going to be a case of ‘best man for the shirt’ come pre-season.
“Players might have played 40 games last year, but if we have got somebody better then they will play. I am not here to hold hands and I am not here to stand still, I am here to improve and push us forward. I want players to come in and effect the starting eleven.
“I have spoken to agents and met players already, so we are really pushing forward. We have a group of 16 players and we are looking to work with a group of 21, maximum.”
Farewell to Stuart O’Keefe
“I can’t speak highly enough of him. I made him captain when I walked in the building because he was the right person to lead the group and I am delighted I made that decision because it was 100 per cent right.
“Stuart has had a great four years here in the sense of two top 10 finishes in League One. In a difficult year when we were relegated he was player of the year because he was a stand-out player.
“We wish him all the best and personally from me I wish to thank him for what he has done. He won’t be short of options.
“Our pre-season plans are complete and we are at a stage now where we have to agree releasing the information with the clubs at the same time.
“We are in the process of finalising kick-off times. We are there and the plans are done, we are delighted with our fixtures. We are going to play some local teams, a couple of games behind closed doors and we are going to have an excellent tour. The organisation and structure is there and we are ahead of the curve in what we are doing.”