Gillingham

Has Scally's change of manager worked?

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, December 24 2013

Paul Scally’s decision to sack Martin Allen was a controversial one but is it looking like a wise one?

Allen’s replacement Peter Taylor has now been at the helm for 11 league games – the same number that his predecessor had.

The new manager had to work with a group of players drilled for 16 months to play a certain way, relying on power and pace, rather than players who may not be at ease playing the Taylor way.

Taylor may not have been able to get the team playing the kind of football he wants on a consistent basis but nobody can argue about the upturn in results.

After 11 league games at the start of the season under Allen, the Gills registered just a couple of wins, with an average of 0.82 points per game. Allen left the Gills sitting 16th in League 1 when he was fired following defeat at Shrewsbury.

Taylor brought in some new players but injuries have meant he has had to rely on youngsters Bradley Dack and Jake Hessenthaler to bring a bit of class to the team. And it seems to be working.

The pair have injected a fresh look to the team and that has been infectious.

Taylor’s 11 games in charge have produced five wins, nearly a sixth against Peterborough and five defeats, with an average points-per-game total of 1.45.

Is that because the opposition have been weaker or because Taylor has been able to get more out of this squad than Allen?

Taylor’s games have been against teams generally lower down the table. Allen’s 11 games have been against sides with an average position of 11th (going on current standings), while Taylor’s has been 15th. Not a lot in it really.

The win against a poor Sheffield United side has probably been the stand-out performance of the season and that was under Taylor’s watch. Allen would point to his team taking apart Crewe, winning 3-0.

What if the former manager had been given the funds to bring in four new players himself, like Taylor had? Would that have made the difference? He certainly needed extra in midfield, having missed out on several summer targets, including, apparently, John–Joe O’Toole.

Survival is the aim and on that score Taylor at least seems to be doing the business. And with injuries to most of his new signings, he has had to do it with Allen’s squad – minus the surely soon-to-be-departing Charlie.

Gills’ current position of 14th is as high as they have been all season and with 25 points already in the bag, the Blues are halfway to the magic 50, which should guarantee League 1 football next season. It would have done last season – just.

But on current form the Gills could end the season with 60 points – a tally which would have left them sitting 14th in last season’s table – which wouldn’t be too shabby at all. They haven’t finished a season that high since Ronnie Jepson led them to mid-table obscurity in 2006.   

There is certainly a lot more confidence in the team and in the stands at present but the festive season will be a great measure of just whether this team has progressed under Taylor. The top two teams in the division, Leyton Orient and Wolves, will both visit Priestfield.

Walsall are also in town and a trip to Stevenage won’t be easy.

Let’s hope the Gills can finally put on a decent show infront of the TV cameras for the Wolves game, which ends the busy period, and show everyone that things at Priestfield really are on the up.

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Relaxed Gills could make for exciting finale

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, April 4 2013
If Monday’s game against Rotherham was anything to go by we could be in for some entertaining displays in the next few weeks.
The Gills went back to basics over the winter (the calender winter that is) and even the manager admits it wasn’t particularly pretty to watch.
But the Gills have ridden the storm and now at home they are playing far more relaxed football.
If you have sat anywhere near Martin Allen during a game he will probably shout the word relax at his players more than any other.
A relaxed Gills team is capable of playing some good entertaining stuff, just like we saw at the start of the season, with regular big wins on home soil.
And now that promotion is all-but sorted it could be time for the Gills to really start expressing themselves.
Chris Whelpdale looked the business going forward on Monday and big striker Danny Kedwell has been enjoying his extended run in the starting XI.
There was anxiety at Priestfield and maybe the mood in the stands has helped to de-stress the players. As the atmosphere has risen so has the players’ performance levels.
Big crowd are sure to accompany the Gills everywhere they go now and even the hardened moaners are running out of things to shout about.
With positive vibes on and off the pitch - stemming from a manager who has been ice cool throughout - we may well see the return of some big wins.
The Gills haven’t beaten a side by more than a goal since January 29 - 14 games ago. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a few sides get a thumping?
And no doubt Martin Allen would love nothing better than heading back to Cheltenham - a place where he has few happy memories from his management days - and secure promotion with a handsome win.
Four games left, four beatable teams, let’s hope the Gills finish the season off in style now and lift a Football League title for only the second time in the club’s history. If the positive and easy-going mood continues there is no reason why they can’t.

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Chasing teams eye up top spots

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, March 6 2013

GILLINGHAM and Port Vale have been left to their own devices in the battle for top spot but could all that be about to change?

With Port Vale stalling and Gillingham dropping vital points on home soil the door has been left ajar for others to join the party.

Rotherham look set to be the team best positioned to make a late charge with just a handful of weeks left between now and the season finale on April 27, but they are not alone.

The Millers are the form team, winning four of their last six, including a 4-0 win at Oxford on Tuesday night.

They could move to within a point of Port Vale if they win their game in hand over the long-time title challengers.

The last few weeks have been a massive disappointment for Vale, who have won just one of their last six, scoring just two goals in the process.

Even Tom Pope - with 27 goals so far - is struggling, as he hasn’t found the target in any of the last eight games. Is it any coincidence that his form has waned ever since the arrival of Lee Hughes.

If the results don’t turn quickly for Micky Adams’ side they may be finding themselves sucked into the play-off mix, as the likes of Exeter, Burton, Northampton and Cheltenham pull out all the stops for a late promotion push.

Cheltenham are unbeaten in six, with just one defeat in 12, but draws are slowing them down. A last minute win over Chesterfield in midweek leaves them in third but they have played more games than anyone else.

Nobody should take their eyes off Paul Tisdale’s Exeter side, who have quietly manoeuvred themselves into a good position. With four wins in five they are making up ground quick and could take over third spot with a win at Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night.

Exeter’s 3-0 win over Northampton on Saturday stopped another form team in their tracks. The Cobblers had been surging up the table before that heavy defeat.

Burton will be cursing themselves for losing so badly at Bristol Rovers, having won their previous four, netting 13 in the process.

Of the five teams below the Gills and Vale, in 30 games, there have been just three defeats between them, which highlights just what a concerted effort they are putting in.

The Gills’ form isn’t too shabby, with just one defeat in six, but any slip-ups and it seems that there are plenty of willing suitors to take over the mantle at the top.

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Fresh faces make sense

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, February 21 2013

THE recent arrival of new faces was the breath of fresh air the Gills needed.

Michael Richardson and Ryan Williams may not be recognised names but their enthusiasm can be infectious.

The same can be said of Steven Gregory and Anton Robinson - two players itching to show what they can do after barely kicking a ball for their parent clubs this season before arriving at Priestfield.

Those arrivals coincided with the departure of the likes of Danny Jackman, Ben Strevens and Ross Flitney.

Not long before that, the Gills said goodbye to Lewis Montrose.

There is no doubting that these are good players but when good players don’t get games they get frustrated.

Just as that enthusiasm can give the team a lift, players who aren’t playing regularly and are down in the dumps can set in motion a wave of negativity.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just football.

Everyone wants to play and at this level sitting on the bench for some just isn’t an option.

For someone like Strevens he had to get games. In the summer his contract at the Gills was at an end and it was doubtful it was going to be extended.

So rather than join the mass summer cull, he’s gone early to make sure he has some money coming in from football next season.

The same has happened to Jackman, now playing regularly for a Kidderminster side who are flying in the Conference.

We have all seen what a quality player Jackman is, but if he’s not getting games then he’s going to start getting itchy feet. Does the Gills manager want a player in the squad who is unsettled or one who is young, fresh and full of beans?

The recent player changes may not have just been based on skill alone. Footballers want to play football and any footballer with a passion for the game will be annoyed when he doesn’t play.

That is not to say it’s what happened in this case but boss Martin Allen did admit himself it would be better for these players to leave for first team football.

So it was no surprise to see Gills boss let some good senior players go, to be replaced by youngsters who aren’t at the stage of their careers when they can be making any kind of demands.

It makes life off the field more harmonious and gives the likes of Strevens and Jackman the chance to start enjoying their football again.

The extra bonus is that a lot of these youngsters will be on a lot less money and if things don’t work out after 28 days they can be sent packing without any fuss.

Allen may not be finished in the transfer market this season. There is speculation he could make a loan offer to Sheffield Wednesday for young forward Harry Grant.

More youth, more enthusiasm and more energy helps keep everyone on their toes. It’s a mix that blends perfectly with the experience heads like Adam Barrett and Deon Burton.

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Strength at the back is driving Gills forward

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, September 27 2012

Gillingham's front-line strikers have taken much of the credit for the blistering start to the season but a run of three clean sheets is testament to the work done where it was needed most.

Wins over Bristol Rovers, Southend and Port Vale have been achieved without conceding and credit must go to the way Martin Allen and his team have set up the team to defend.

Key arrivals over the summer have helped, with the likes of experienced keeper Stuart Nelson and no-nonsense defender Adam Barrett joining the Gills. The presence of Crystal Palace loan-man David Wright has also given extra assurance at the back.

And Allen has also played it safe in games after going ahead early, by introducing more defence-minded players like Andy Frampton, to ensure there are no last-minute dramas.

The Gills head into Saturday's game against Rochdale with the best defensive record in the division (conceding just a goal every other game) - a stark contrast to last season where goals flew in at both ends on a regular basis.

Fans were certainly put through it, with games against Northampton (4-3), Wimbledon (3-4), Hereford (5-4), Crewe (3-4), Accrington (3-4) and Bournemouth (3-2). Enough drama to fill a ‘how not to defend’ manual many times over.

This season the Gills have only conceded more than one goal twice, and both in cup games, against Championship Middlesbrough (0-2) and League 1 Crawley - where an understrength Gills team lost 3-2.

Only for a brief spell, against Chesterfield, have the Gills been behind in any league game. Eight minutes to be precise.

Individual performances have gone up another level, with Matt Fish now looking much more at ease on the right and Joe Martin looking steady on the other flank. The transformation of Callum Davies from a bench-warmer to a solid League 2 defender has been a great bonus. Even if it has meant his mate Connor Essam has needed to go out on loan to get games.

And it hasn't just been individuals who have made an impact.

The Gills are organised well and defend as a unit. With Allen drumming the message home from the sidelines throughout games, that message is getting through. Runners are tracked, crosses are being blocked and headers are being won.

During this week's chat with Allen he made a point of noting the improvement of Lewis Montrose. The big midfielder was sent away with instructions to improve his heading and against Vale he constantly won the ball in the air on the edge of the box, time and again alleviating pressure on the defence.

Much of the day-to-day training is taken by assistant John Schofield and his input to what we're seeing on the pitch shouldn't be underestimated. The coaching team of Schofield, Carl Muggleton and Allen is certainly one that is helping to shape the Gills into a rigid, organised team when defending and a fluid, fast-paced and exciting one going forward.

It's a joy to watch at the moment but it's not through luck, or by out-scoring the opposition, that the Gills are sitting pretty at the top of League 2.

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Allen set to choose his leader

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, July 19 2012

 

Andy Frampton

 

GILLINGHAM approach their first real pre-season test, at Dartford on Saturday, with a decision still looming as to who will captain the team.

This week, when asked, Gills boss Martin Allen insisted a decision on the captaincy under his management was not made.

Many will assume that the armband will once more be handed to Andy Frampton. He conducts himself with the utmost professionalism and certainly had the respect of the rest of the squad.

Frampton (pictured) has already worked under Allen at Brentford, where he helped the club to successive play-offs. But it’s no certainty that the new Gills boss will pick the experienced defender to lead the side out again this season.

When asked on Wednesday if he had made a decision on the new captain, replied with a stern "no". So who are the possible candidates.

Frampton is certainly one of them but do you go for experience and professionalism or pick out a lively personality like Charlie Lee - he is certainly likeable and has played at a good level before.

With such a young team there are few other real options. Danny Kedwell could do the job, as he clearly loves the club - having supporterd the Gills as a youngster - and will be looking to be a regular starter under the new manager.

There are few others to choose from so maybe Allen has got some other transfer targets in mind that could fit the bill. Or maybe if Barry Fuller comes back onboard he could get the nod.

No doubt it’s probably not one of Allen’s biggest dilemmas at the minute, as he searches high and low for new recruits, but these little things can make a difference.

The captain’s role at Gills in recent years has certainly caused a few stirs, with previous boss Mark Stimson taking the captaincy off Andrew Crofts before shipping him off to the Conference on loan.

Andy Hessenthaler made a similarly bold decision to take the armband away from Fuller and give it to Frampton.

Footballers are proud people and it will be interesting to see who Allen chooses to lead his team to what will hopefully be third time lucky as they challenge for promotion in League 2.

 

So who do you think should skipper the Gills this season? Or does it not even matter? Comment below. 

 

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Fitness could be key for Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, July 10 2012

 

Martin Allen, Gillingham managerWHILE all of the recent hype has surrounded the appointment of Martin Allen (pictured) at Gillingham, just as vital could be the arrival of conditioning coach James Russell.

 

Russell - a Gills fan and former St John Fisher School pupil in Chatham – has a wealth of knowledge, experience and the qualifications to bring the current squad into tip-top shape.

 

Not since during former manager Mark Stimson’s reign and the “Terror Tuesdays” sessions under the guidance of Danny Ellis have the players had a dedicated fitness mentor.

 

Previous manager Andy Hessenthaler had his own methods but decided against employing a dedicated fitness guro and the arrival of Russell could be a key ingredient to turning a decent-looking squad into one who can challenge for automatic promotion places.

 

Players can have all the skill in the world but if their legs aren’t up to it then all of a manager’s best laid plans just aren’t going to work.

Fitness was an area that Stimson was keen on – it was the first thing he tackled when he arrived at Priestfield - and he was able to show off at Wembley during the 2009 play-off final win, leaving all of his substitutes on the bench, with the confidence that his XI had the stamina to get the job done.

 

A lack of physical fitness can lead to a lack of mental concentration and perhaps that was the reason for the side leaking so many goals last season.

 

Injury problems have also plagued the Gills over recent seasons and, although the majority of those can’t be helped, it will no doubt be easier to avoid little niggles with a squad in prime condition.

 

Russell, who is qualified in coaching, sports science and nutrition, worked under Allen at Notts County, following a spell in America, with the Kansas City Wizards and also at Rochdale. 

 

Allen certainly appears to be keen to bring a new dimension to training, with earlier starts and an impromptu dip in the pool at the Strand on Friday.

 

County were certainly well prepared last summer, as they made a blistering start to their League 1 campaign, earning Allen the September manager-of-the-month award. Things went wrong for Allen over the Christmas period and wasn’t given the time to turn things around.

 

A good start, at least, will make a refreshing change for the Gills faithful, having seen their side stall early on in both of the last two seasons. A hard pre-season under the watchful eye of Russell will certainly see them well prepared for the League 2 opener against Bradford.

 

The players head to France on Thursday for a four-day training programme in Le Touquet and no doubt Allen, and Russell, will have plenty more surprises in store for his squad.

 

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Gills revival spurred on by Whelpdale

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Sunday, March 18 2012

Chris Whelpdale may yet to have convinced everyone since moving back to the Gills on a permanent deal but is it any coincidence his return to the side has coincided with the recent revival?

He may well admit himself that in the early stages of the season he failed to live up to the billing after becoming one of the more high-profile signings that boss Andy Hessenthaler made.

His whirlwind loan stint in the previous campaign saw him net three goals in four games before injury cut short his stay. Try as they might, the Gills were unable to bring him back until agreeing a fee with Peterborough in the summer.

Those blistering performances were in short supply at the start of the season but are we now starting to see the real Whelpdale?

A lot has been made of the influence that the youngsters have made to the Gills and that has been fully justified. Whelpdale himself may feel he should still be classed as a youngster. He has only just turned 25 which means he should still have his best years ahead of him.

In recent weeks he has been deployed in an advanced attacking position and he seems to be thriving on the chance to get involved at the top end. He has scored four goals in his last eight games, the kind of form that is better than leading scorer Danny Kedwell.

Whelpdale was dropped to the bench for the match against Wimbledon in January. The Gills lost 4-3. He failed to make the team for the game at Accrington, where the Gills again suffered a 4-3 defeat, and again missed out when the Gills suffered a third straight loss. This time going down 2-1 to Southend.

Hessenthaler recalled him for the trip to Port Vale, where the Gills boss also brought in youngsters Connor Essam and Jack Evans. Whelpdale was on target in what ended in another defeat but at least the performance was far better than in previous weeks.

Since then the Gills and Whelpdale haven’t looked back.

The former Posh man has started every game and is beginning to look like the player which led the Gills to digging deep and shelling out cash to bring him in from Peterborough. If Crawley boss Steve Evans' programme notes were to be believed, he was one of several players who turned him down for a more favourable deal with the Gills.

Gillingham need their best players performing at this stage of the season and Whelpdale appears to have answered Hessenthaler’s plea. At a time when the Gills couldn’t buy a win the Gills boss needed some of those summer signings to give him a bit of pay back. Whelpdale has certainly started to do that.

He is looking like a vital cog for the Gills and the last goal at Cheltenham showed what a class act he is. A neat interchange of passes with Jo Kuffour and Kedwell opened up their defence in the latter stages.

Up next are Crawley and Whelpdale will certainly be hoping for a better end to his last meeting against Evans’ side. He left the pitch with a nasty testical injury – one which gained worldwide exposure (thanks to Danny Spiller's twitter account) – following a challenge from David Hunt.

He will be looking to avenge that painful setback and in the form he is showing he could end up hurting Crawley where it really hurts.

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In pursuit of hapiness

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, October 11 2011

GILLINGHAM fans face a 460-mile round trip in the pursuit of happiness this weekend.

It takes a serious amount of dedication to spend nine hours on the road to do anything - let alone watch 90 minutes of League 2 football.

I’m told Torquay’s Plainmoor ground is also under development so what awaits us when we arrive is anyone’s guess. They have already ruled out seating for visiting fans.

Not that many people will be complaining having spent the best part of the day staring at either the backside of another car or the headrest on a train/coach.

The press facilities last time out were minimal, to put it mildly, so don’t be surprised to see a few journalists wrestling with a laptop in the terraces.

But if Gillingham fans thought they were dedicated spare a thought for the Italian Gianfranco Giordano he regular travels 1,100 miles from his home in Italy to watch Ebbsfleet United.

Now I know the standard of football in Italy has taken a plunge since the heady days of Channel 4’s Football Italia but surely it can’t have got that bad.

The 50-year-old from Turin was once a season ticket holder at AC Milan but couldn’t resists the tempation of Ebbsfleet and the prospect of parting with a few Euros to take a share in the club, through their MyFootballClub ownership.

“My wife thinks I’m crazy” he said. She’s not the only one.

He’ll make the trek 18 times in a season to make sure he gets full value from his £300 season ticket.

Apparently he’s a policeman and they must pay well for him to afford a £200 the fortnightly air-fare.

It’s the kind of jet-set lifestyle that only Gillingham’s very own chairman Paul Scally would be able to compete with.

I have in the past laughed at the sight of a miserly bunch of away fans spread out in the top of the Brian Moore stand in recent seasons, but I should be a little more kind. Perhaps the lack of away fans at Priestfield shows how many sane people are around these days. You certainly have to worry aboue the 50-odd Barnet fans who made the trip for a first round JPT game.

I made the same mistake myself some years back, for an Auto Windscreens Trophy tie between Wigan and Lincoln. This was when Wigan were rubbish and played at a rubbish ground infront of a handful of people. We missed the first half (bad traffic) and wished we had missed the second.

At least nowadays I am doing those ridiculous journeys for work-purposes rather than ‘pleasure’.

Let’s hope the Gills fans get rewarded for their efforts this weekend with another Hereford-style goal blitz and Mr Giordano gets a bit more joy for his Euros. He’s only seen one win so far this season.

 

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Local hot-shots shouldn't be overlooked

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, September 27 2011

GILLINGHAM have made it clear they will be keeping a close eye on local talent after missing out on some high profile players in recent years.

Boss Andy Hessenthaler will be hoping another Chris Smalling doesn’t slip through the net and at present they don’t have to go far from home to see some quality talent just waiting for a chance to impress.

The Gills recently plumped for West Ham’s Frank Nouble to give their attacking options an immediate boost but the club will no doubt also have noticed some familiar figures doing the business upfront in the lower leagues.

Raw talent needs nurturing, so it was no surprise Hessenthaler went for someone of Nouble’s stature for a quick fix, but in the long run he could be turning to some of Kent’s top non-league sides as he did when he went back to Dover to land Adam Birchall.

As Danny Kedwell is proving, since getting his dream move to the Gills, it can be a long route into the professional game but there are so many players out there just waiting to show what they can do.

At Ebbsfleet they have an attacking threat in Michael West who would no doubt do the business at a higher level. He came through Fleet’s youth set-up and has grown into a key player for Liam Daish’s side.

He’s a skilful player, hampered by injury this season, who loves to run at defenders. Although not a striker, he knows where the net is. His goals in last season’s successful Blue Square South play-off campaign were crucial.

It wasn’t long ago that Charlie MacDonald was banging in the goals for the Fleet. He was linked to the Gills but ended up at Southend and then Brentford. He reportedly cost MK Dons £1m this summer and has hit three goals in eight games so far.

Andy Pugh, meanwhile, who was released by the Gills in 2007 has become a big hit at Welling since taking a step backwards. The 22-year-old top scored for the Wings with 17 last season and has 10 in 10 so far this season. He is quick and skillful and will surely be back in the league some day.

Another former Gillingham youngster, Frannie Collin, has netted double figures for Tonbridge Angels and will be just as determined to prove that he has developed and is ready for another shot at the big time.

Charlie Sheringham meanwhile has the name, thanks to his father Teddy, and is fast developing a good reputation at Dartford. He has 11 goals to his name already and after spending his younger days with Tottenham he has been brought up to play decent football.

Dartford have certainly produced some talent in recent years. Cody McDonald wasn’t there very long but they cashed in when he went to Norwich City just a few years after wing-wizard Dave Martin moved to Crystal Palace.

Kent may not be awash with top teams but is developing some good footballers and the Gills need to remain alert so it’s them that benefit and not others.

Chris Smalling went from Maidstone United to Manchester United and the Champions League in the space of a whirlwind three years, which included a £10m move from Fulham to Old Trafford. Despite going to Chatham Grammar he bypassed his local club completely.

Young defender Jack Baldwin moved from Faversham to Hartlepool in the summer, despite brief interest from the Gills. Will he prove to be another that got away?

Clearly the Gills can’t sign every half-decent player in Kent but the good thing is that Hessenthaler has made a point of keeping in with the locals, by spending the summer playing numerous pre-season friendlies and loaning a number of players to local clubs. It is unlikely local talent will by-pass Priestfield so easily in the future and the next big star could be turning out in blue and not elsewhere. Just who can make it remains to be seen.

 

 

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