Report by John Edwards
Picture courtesy of Bolton Wanderers
Phil Parkinson has added pace and versatility to Altrincham's injury-depleted frontline by signing 20-year old forward Gerald Sithole on loan from Bolton Wanderers.
The lightning-quick frontrunner trained with his new team-mates at Egerton today and is available for Alty's Vanarama National League fixture with Ebbsfleet United at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday afternoon after joining the Robins for the next month in a move that is subject to FA approval.
With Regan Linney still sidelined by a knee problem and recent signing Ollie Crankshaw ruled out for the season after injuring an ACL, Gerald's arrival will provide a timely boost for Alty boss Phil's attacking options.
Born in Ashford in Kent, the 5ft 11in attacker can operate on either flank or through the middle as the main striker and earned his move to Bolton last year after clocking up 16 League One appearances for Gillingham.
Gerald, who's younger brother Ronald is currently on the books at the Priestfield Stadium, came through the youth ranks at Gillingham and found himself elevated to the bench for the first team, away to Oxford United, just hours after signing his first professional contract in April 2021.
After making his League debut as a second-half substitute against Northampton Town a week later, he began to establish himself in Gills manager Steve Evans' plans at the start of the following season, playing in a 1-1 draw with Lincoln City and being in the thick of the action in an eventful Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out win over Crawley Town.
As well as registering his first senior goal with a close-range finish in the fourth minute and nervelessly converting one of the spot-kicks in the shoot-out, he was on the receiving end of a scything challenge in front of the dug-outs that sparked a furious reaction from Evans when it was only punished with a yellow card.
Evans was sent off for his protests but remained unrepentant as he praised Gerald's physical resilience and said: "It was a shocking challenge, one that has no place in football, and everyone in the ground knew it should have been a red card. Gerald's pace has done the lad, and while I'm not saying it was malicious, it could have caused serious injury. Thankfully, the kid got up and got on with it, which was great to see."
Reflecting on what he saw when he promoted the then-teenager from the youth ranks and integrated him into Gillingham's senior side, Evans also said: "He is a tremendous young talent. He is a young kid who needs to keep his feet on the ground and work hard, but that shouldn't be a problem, because he conducts himself properly and if you were his parent, you would be proud.
"I really like the kid. His smile, energy and willingness to work hard are infectious. He will play a lot more, and, with his ability and frightening pace, he has a bright future if he stays focused."
Gerald did, indeed, play a lot more, making 16 appearances in League One in what turned out to be a relegation campaign for the Gills before being invited for a trial at Bolton in June last year and subsequently signing for the League One club, where he has been developing in their newly-launched B team squad in the Central League.
A warm welcome to the Robins, Gerald, and everyone at The J.Davidson Stadium wishes you all the best for a happy and successful time in Alty colours.