By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH FOOTBALL CLUB have confirmed the signing of Abdulai Bell-Baggie for the 2022-23 season as their preparations continue for the new campaign; the winger becoming the club’s latest signing as he joins Privett Park from Southern League rivals Salisbury City as Shaun Gale looks to add more experience in attacking areas with the new year looms.
Bell-Baggie, a thirty-year old winger from Sierra Leone, has a wealth of playing experience on both domestic and international experience; having started his career in the youth sides of Reading and Southampton in the period from 2007 to 2009. During this time he also played two games apiece for the English Under 16s and Under 17s teams, but struggled to impress against a growing generation of younger players despite winning the 2007 Victory Shield with the Three Lions.
Following loan spells at Port Vale, Crawley Town, and Rotherham; Bell-Baggie signed for Yeovil for the 2011-12 season but didn’t make an appearance for the Glovers in League One. A step-down then followed as he played for Hayes & Yeading and Salisbury City in the Conference Leagues as he made six appearances that year overall, finally getting his career on track when he joined Tranmere Rovers for the 2012-13 season.
The winger began to make an impact for the League One season as he became a first team player, making 31 appearances for the Rovers in his first year. But displays were limited in the next two seasons and he was released in 2015 with the club relegated and he had a disappointing spell with Bristol Rovers at the end of the 2014-15 as the ‘Gas’ struggled in the Conference National (Step One of non-league).
Twelve appearances followed for Stockport County before he joined Poole Town, playing 48 times over two and a half seasons as the club began to solidify themselves as a National League South side. Limited displays led Bell-Baggie to join Weymouth and this proved to be an excellent move in 2017, playing a key role in the club’s promotion two years later with 41 appearances. His solid displays saw three goals in the Southern League as his team won the Southern League, featuring in the 2019-20 team of the season.
Over recent years Bell-Baggie has played in the Hampshire area, joining Eastleigh in 2020 after scoring ten goals for Weymouth in the National League season. He made 20 appearances for the Spitfires in a shortened season due to the Covid-19 lockdown rules before joining Havant & Waterlooville for 2021-22.
Bell-Baggie participated in fourteen National League games as the Hawks challenged for the play-offs last season, although he returned to his previous club Salisbury earlier this year and featured in the game against Gosport on Easter Monday. Alongside this the winger has played in five international matches for Sierra Leone but his last appearance was 2014, with no real run of consistent opportunities to impress since due to a range of factors including injuries and lack of games.
Although manager Shaun Gale hasn’t offered his thoughts on his new signing, he is seen as a great addition to Gosport’s attacking options as they look to gain promotion next May to the National League South. He is being eyed as a creative spark who can provide support to Dan Wooden, Matt Paterson and Billie Busari at key moments as well as experience on / off the pitch.
Bell-Baggie was keen to show excitement as he retweeted a welcoming message from Gosport Borough and added: “Excited about joining @GosportBFC for the upcoming season. Time to start getting back to scoring goals and having fun on the pitch. I just wanted to say thanks @SalisburyFC and for welcoming me back to the football club towards the end of last season. The most importantly thing for me is I have found the love for football again. All the best for the upcoming season x”
Gosport supporters can get a glimpse of Bell-Baggie when they host a Portsmouth XI side on July 3 (Sunday), which will act as Shaun Gale’s first chance to see his fresh look side before the new season begins on August 6. Fixtures for this local derby can be purchased on the link here, with five hundred released earlier this week at a cost of £10. Ticket sales are limited to a maximum of six tickets per transactions and it is unlikely there will be any sold at the gates.
PICTURED BY WIKIMEDIA (FLICKR): New Borough player Bell-Baggie plays for Tranmere in 2012.