Gills boss Neil Harris says younger players are being offered the chance to impress as the club looks to retain their position at the top of League 2.
There are few better sights in the game than a young gifted player pulling on the jersey of his local team where he was born, brought up and had risen through the youth ranks. The sound from the terraces proudly rings out, “He’s one of our own” and his efforts match the passion from the terraces.
That is exactly what Neil Harris is hoping will be happening at Gillingham Football Club for years to come, and now there is a real plan in place.
“We are working really hard,” said the excited Gillingham boss. “Any owner is going to want to see home-grown players and any fan wants to see a fan on the pitch. When the fans are singing ‘He’s one of our own’ it gives you spine-tingles and gives you that connection between the terrace and the pitch.
“Trying to recruit the best kids in Kent to play for the only professional side in Kent is a priority for us. We are the third biggest county with a population of about 2 million. A lot of kids play football and a lot of kids come out of Kent to play for other teams, namely Millwall and Charlton. They have to come and play for us.
“We are giving players chances. We want the under 16s trying to get into the under 18s. The under 18s have to earn the right to step into the B team. We want players wanting to join Gillingham looking at the pathway to get to the first team. That pathway and opportunity is here.
“All we can do is show a pathway and the B team is a pathway to the first team. We are working really hard behind the scenes to get the B team up and running and staffed correctly. We want to put on a good games programme.
“The game on Tuesday against Dartford will see youngsters coupled with first-team players playing on the first-team pitch in the right environment with hundreds of people here. It’s the way it should be done.
“No one should come thinking about the result, because it is never about the result but we would love to see supporters coming to see some of the young players coming through and a few first-team players getting a top up of minutes or getting back from injury.
“It’s a chance to come a watch a game of football and enjoy it without the stress of winning or losing.
“We recently played Millwall and phwoar, what a game, it was a 100-mile-an-hour aggressive game of football. A proper game of football for our young players to be involved in.”