Scouts from Premier League Clubs were out in force on Thursday night to watch Gillingham take on Cambridge United in the FA Youth Cup First Round.
The Gills lost the game 2-1 after extra-time but Head of Youth Darren Hare was well aware of who the scouts were flocking to see 16 year old Ashley Miller, a schoolboy at the Club who has already been tied up to join as a full-time Apprentice next July.
“They come on a regular basis and follow him (Miller) around,” said Hare. “We don’t want to lose him like Luke Freeman in the past and Ashley just wants to play for Gillingham.”
“We haven’t had an offer for him yet and I don’t know how long that will last.”
With Gills Manager, Andy Hessenthaler set to name the youngster among his squad for the trip to Northampton that may be set to change.
“He plays up top and has been setting the place alight recently” said Hessenthaler.
“We may introduce him to the first team this weekend because the kid is a bit special. If you are good enough you are old enough and he excites me. I’ve seen him a few times and he’s attracting a bit of attention.”
Gillingham will need to get permission from his school, Dover Grammar, for him to be allowed to play this weekend.
Hessenthaler said: “I’ve seen him progress and he has an effect. He can do something special. He is young but can handle it.”
“He’s pretty much got everything and there is no fear for the kid. He would go out there and run and cause teams problems and express himself.”
“Even the first team players are aware of him and watch him on the training ground.”
Gillingham have produced some talented players in recent years and in 2008 they sold 15 year old Luke Freeman to Arsenal for a six-figure fee.
Ryan Bertrand joined Chelsea in 2005 while another former youth player Matt Jarvis produced a man of the match display for Wolves at Old Trafford earlier this week in Wanderers 3-2 defeat.
And while Hare is confident in the youngster’s ability to go right to the top, he believes that Miller would be best served by staying at the Priestfield for a little while longer.
“He’s happy and there is no reason to think he will go elsewhere. As far as we are concerned he is a Gillingham player and that’s how we want it to stay.”
“You are better off cutting your teeth at a low league Club than you are going somewhere high up, not having a sniff of the first team and getting loaned out left right and centre and doing it that way.”
Gillingham are also set to name youth keeper Daren Hawkes on the bench at Northampton as reserve goalie Lance Cronin injured his foot in training on Thursday.
Hessenthaler said: “I have no fear about putting him in. He would be fine. He keeps getting man-of-the-matches with the first team in training so I haven’t a problem with him.”