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Gillingham have beaten Sunderland to the signing of Kyle Dempsey, with manager Steve Evans admitting that ‘some very big clubs in League One’ were chasing a free-agent midfielder while speaking to the Gills’ official website.

While Sunderland’s midfield is not exactly short of quantity or quality, Phil Parkinson is still lacking the sort of lock-picking talent capable of cracking open a well-drilled defensive line.

And Dempsey, with his probing passes and forward-thinking style, felt like the perfect foil for the hard-working, dependable talents of Luke O’Nien, Max Power, George Dobson and co.

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The Mail reported at the end of July that Sunderland were battling Hull City for the signature of a 24-year-old who, according to his former Fleetwood boss Joey Barton, has the potential to be ‘the best in the division’.

But Gillingham, swooping in out of the blue, have suddenly agreed a deal for a player who Evans has been chasing for 12 long months.

“Kyle is a top talent and we are delighted he has chosen us over some very big clubs in League 1,” says the former Leeds boss, perhaps hinting at Sunderland and Hull’s interest in Dempsey.

“He is simply a superb signing.”

Things were looking up on Wearside recently with Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien joining on free transfers, strengthening Parkinson’s squad at both ends of the pitch.

But the recruitment drive has stalled recently, thanks to an EFL-imposed salary cap which appears to have scuppered deals for former Burton forward Scott Fraser and left-back Luke Garbutt.

The Chronicle adds that Kosovo international Arbenit Xhemalji will not be heading to the Stadium of Light either.

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