By Nathan Bees
Gasheads had something to smile about this summer with the brilliant news that goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall has signed a permanent deal with the club.
The experienced shot-stopper penned an initial 2 year contract with the option of a third should he trigger an appearance clause. I for one was delighted to hear that Mildy had opted to become our first choice goalie and my confidence in our back five has hit new heights.
Our defence was sorted with Mark McChrystal signing his new deal last month and the final piece of the jigsaw was persuading Mildenhall that his future lies with us.
It was inevitable that his impressive performances during the original loan spell would attract admiring glances from other clubs and some of them will have been at a higher level than League Two I’m sure.
Kudos to all involved in negotiations for making it happen, it shows we mean business.
Our defence is now looking enviously solid and that gives us a good foundation to begin strengthening the more advanced positions within our team.
It was encouraging to hear that John-Joe O’Toole remains in talks with John Ward but I can’t deny that it evokes frustration at the same time.
Among supporters on Twitter there is a sense of optimism that our former loan favourite may still be convinced to join us but unfortunately there remains a nagging doubt.
He’s got ambitions to be playing at a higher level and, lest we forget, his all-action displays in the new year won’t have gone unnoticed by other clubs. This has always meant that we would need to see off serious competition to seal his signature.
No matter how frustrating the situation is we have no choice but to be patient. Our manager would not be wasting his time chasing a player he doesn’t hold out at least some hope of signing, so let’s see what develops.
A Bristol Rovers side with John-Joe O’Toole in midfield would be a formidable opponent for any team in this division. If it means we need to play a waiting game then so be it.
Having said that Ward has explained that we have other targets should we need to look elsewhere, allaying fears that we have no contingency plans in place. There are other central midfielders capable of doing the job JJ does and that’s something we need to bear in mind should JJ reject us.
In fact, sourcing a replacement may even be something that we instigate ourselves if too much time passes without a breakthrough. The ball lies in John-Joe’s court but it’s reassuring that we have alternatives in place should we need them, unlike in previous summers where we only seemed to have a plan A.
Learning from those mistakes will stand us in good stead moving forward.
We are officially under 2 weeks away from the start of pre-season training and excitement can begin to build ahead of August 3rd and the big kick-off.
Our friendly programme has seen a home fixture with Reading added to it which hopefully means the return of Jason Roberts to the Mem. He’ll receive a warm welcome, as he always does, and I have no doubt that he’ll enjoy playing in front of the Blackthorn End once again. It’s a far cry from the likes of Old Trafford and the Emirates but everybody enjoys a good terrace!
Mikkel Andersen, our former Danish loanee, could also return to Bristol if selected by the Royals on July 28th. The big goalkeeper was a popular figure among Gasheads during his two spells with the club and was widely tipped to make his mark at the Madejski upon his return.
Unfortunately he’s not had the chance to do so given Reading’s recent flirtation with the Premier League and he subsequently moved on loan to Portsmouth for a short period. The potential reunion with Mikkel and Jason is still several weeks away but time will start to pass a lot quicker as the team begin their preparations for next season.
Thank goodness. The close-season is by far and away the most mind-numbingly dull time of year for football fans. Still, the recent spell of glorious sunshine has helped to ease the boredom somewhat. I wonder what the chances are of this sort of weather come the opening day?
Well, if last August is anything to go by we need to be more concerned with thunderstorms...
I’ll leave it there before I incite any unnecessary anger! Have a good weekend everybody.