Gillingham: Why Summer Signings Could Fire Them Back To League One – Opinion

Since being relegated in 2022, Gillingham fans have endured two seasons of disappointment after finishing 17th in their first season back in the fourth tier, following that up with a disappointing collapse at the end of the last campaign which left the side in 12th place.

However, after the signing of former Crewe Alexandra frontman Elliott Nevitt, and Accrington Stanley star Jack Nolan, could this be the Gills’ way out of what has proved to be a very challenging division over the last few years?

Facing the facts of the situation in Kent, goals have been hard to come by at the Priestfield Stadium for years now, with the team failing to reach 50 or more goals in an EFL season for the last three years, two of those being under-40-goal campaigns. But with new manager Mark Bonner at the helm, he’s done some astute business to put the Blues in with a chance of promotion back to the third tier.

Starting with last season’s hero for the Railwaymen in Nevitt, the 27-year-old had a powerful campaign, netting 16 times in League Two for the eventual play-off final runners-up, but now he’s been brought in as Bonner’s talisman in hopes of continuing in the same vein of form.

After having several spells in non-league, Nevitt was a late bloomer, only playing his first EFL game for Tranmere Rovers in 2021. He’d go on to score 11 league goals in the one-and-a-half years he spent in Merseyside before Crewe decided to take a chance on him.

His goal returns before the 2023/24 season don’t make for exceptional viewing. However, being in the right system can provide a player with that level of confidence to push on and there are not many managers at this level better at extracting the very best from his playing squad than Bonner.

Despite previously being the youngest manager in the EFL, the former Cambridge United boss has a knack for squeezing every last drop from a starting lineup which would make you think he’s had 30+ years in the game. With Nevitt under this new coaching set-up, there wouldn’t be any surprises if he were to challenge for the Golden Boot this year.

The 38-year-old gaffer has experience of having his team score goals, and lots of them, as Cambridge were the league’s top scorers the last time they were in League Two with 73 to their name. Strike partnership Paul Mullin and Joe Ironside scored 46 of those, a staggering increase on Gillingham’s previous numbers. If Nevitt could provide even half of that total, he’d be a fan-favourite in no time.

Another signing to add fuel to the fire for Gillingham is hotshot Jack Nolan from Accrington. After acquiring the 23-year-old for an undisclosed fee earlier this summer, Nolan was a bright spark in what was a relatively tame season for the Reds. Topping both the goals and assists chart, the right-sided attacker could only drag the Lancashire outfit to a 17th-place finish despite contributing 25 goals to their cause over the campaign.

Seeing this side get built over the summer can only provide excitement within the club, although promotion might not be as easy as it seems. MK Dons have been busy in the market picking up exceptional talent such as Northampton Town centre-half Sam Sheering and Crawley Town attacking midfielder Liam Kelly, just to name a few.

Elsewhere, Fleetwood Town finished the season strong under new boss Charlie Adam. However, his late rescue mission came to no avail as the Cods were relegated. Doncaster Rovers, under former Peterborough United manager Grant McCann, also had an exceptional end to the campaign, before losing out on a place at Wembley to the previously mentioned Crewe in the playoff semi-final.

Bonner and the Gills will have their work cut out for them considering the sheer quality within the division, but with League One on the mind of the higher-ups at Priestfield, Gillingham have every chance of mixing it with the title contenders and promotion hopefuls come May.

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