One out, two in as Pennock’s squad starts to take shape
Fan favourite Cody McDonald departs for AFC Wimbledon as Tom Eaves and Elliott List sign on the dotted line
Any time there’s transfer news, the fans take an active interest, so today has been one of the more interesting days of Gillingham’s off-season, with comings and goings at Priestfield Stadium.
The first confirmed news concerned a Elliott List, who inked a one-year contract extension to keep him at Gillingham until next summer.
The young winger has shown glimpses of raw ability in his fleeting appearances for the club so far, but hasn’t been given a consistent run in the side.
With head coach Adrian Pennock’s penchant for a team that offers a threat out wide, List’s pace could prove a useful asset and I’d expect him to get a consistent run during pre-season as Pennock assesses whether the former Crystal Palace trainee is ready to step up into a first-team spot.
The next news we had confirmed was the departure of Cody McDonald, who has moved on to pastures new at AFC Wimbledon.
The striker rejected the offer made by the Gills in order to accept a deal from Dons boss Neal Ardley, who’d tried previously to secure McDonald’s signature when he rejoined the Gills back in 2013.
McDonald opted for the Kent side back then, but four years on he’s gone the other route, swapping Priestfield for Kingsmeadow.
A firm favourite with the Priestfield faithful, McDonald has been Gillingham’s main goal threat throughout his time at the club, and has scored many an important goal for the club during his spells with us. He leaves with the fans’ best wishes and the concern over how we’ll go about replacing him.
McDonald was our main striker in poor side last season that gave him little or nothing in the way of quality service. A season spent feeding off scraps and chasing down lost causes still resulted in him netting 12 times in all competitions, a remarkable feat when you think back to our hoof-and-hope approach to games last term.
Those goals — and that threat in and around the penalty area — need replacing.
While one striker exited the club, another altogether different forward arrived, with six-foot-five target man Tom Eaves arriving on a two-year contract after failing to agree terms with Yeovil.
Eaves, whose scoring record doesn’t match that of the departing McDonald, will bring something different to the club — a physical presence.
Gillingham have lacked that grunt in forward areas for a few years now, so Eaves’ arrival should be viewed as a positive.
A partnership between him and McDonald, supported by the industry of Josh Parker, the raw pace of List and the creativity of a fit Lee Martin, would have given Gills fans plenty to be excited about. Now it seems Eaves has arrived as one piece of the jigsaw while the other piece leaves the club.
It seems to me as if we’re still an established goalscorer short of a forward line, so hopefully Messrs Pennock and Taylor are already well along the road to acquiring someone capable of guaranteeing a double-figure haul, as McDonald did.
Pennock and Taylor have already done some solid business this summer, wisely addressing the area of greatest concern, the defence, with a trio of signings. Alex Lacey, Luke O’Neill and Gabriel Zakouani will help add size, strength and flexibility to the club’s ailing back line.
While the loss of McDonald will concern some, myself included, there are signs of positivity at the club. Aaron Morris should return fully fit and I expect we’ll see a revitalised Lee Martin if played in the right position. We’ve strengthened our defence and have added a different option up front.
The pieces are coming together, but I don’t think we’re finished yet.
Hopefully Pennock and Taylor are of a similar view.