Government

Let's all enjoy the ride

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, April 11 2013

 

SATURDAY’S celebrations inside Priestfield are what makes it all worthwhile.
And 1,400 fans will be packed into Whaddon Road on Saturday hoping for an even more special occasion - with the League 2 title up for grabs.
I may not be a Gillingham fan as such, but having covered them home and away for the last seven years as part of a sports reporter for the KM, they are certainly a club I have a lot of time for.
So I was as pleased as anyone to see the Gills promoted back to League 1.
I certainly won’t miss some of the ropey League 2 reporting facilities on offer, with the likes of York City springing to mind.
Sheffield United, Coventry and even maybe the likes of Blackburn and Wolves could be on the fixture list next season.
This season must have cost the faithful Gills fans a massive amount, with some mammoth journeys. It makes the trip to Cheltenham this weekend seem like a local derby.
And it’s sure to have that feeling. 
Cheltenham fans may be keen to show Martin Allen their displeasure - having seen their club drop a league and head towards non-league football under his reign.
But I’m sure the 1,400 Gills fans will easily be able to drown out any negative sentiment coming from the home ranks.
It isn’t the first time that Allen has returned to Cheltenham as manager but he won’t have many happy memories from his last visit.
Allen’s Brentford team - with Stuart Nelson in goal - suffered a 5-0 defeat.
Nobody will be expecting the Gills to suffer such similar problems this weekend.
When I was younger I once read the book by Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch. It was all about his life following Arsenal. It earned rave reviews but I never got it.
He would get upset if the team didn’t get to Wembley or win the league. That’s not real football for me.
I once went from Lincoln to Colchester and saw us lose 7-1 and traveled all the way to Wigan’s old shambles of a ground for an LDV Cup game - or something similar. Missed the first half and saw us lose without a shot.
Gillingham fans have endured some torrid times themselves. Just mentioning ‘Accrington away’ will send a shudder through the spine.
But only when you have tasted the very worst can you appreciate the very best.
Football is all about the roller-coaster and there is no denying that being a Gillingham fan offers plenty of highs and lows.
When I saw Martin Allen this week in his office the phone was already buzzing with calls from football agents. The plan for League 1 is already underway.
And let’s hope now for many more highs than lows. The Gills fans have certainly deserved this moment.
Roll on Saturday.

 

Title shot may be just the beginning for Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, March 25 2013

Gillingham are in with a chance of claiming the League 2 title with five weeks of the season remaining.

But if they can hold onto top spot just which way will they turn.

Over the last 20 years the winners of the division’s basement division have gone in many different directions afterwards, from euphoric heights to catastrophic collapses.

Some of the winners of recent years have gone onto achieve great success, such as the winners in 2000, Swansea City.

A move into a new stadium coincided with bigger crowds and success on the pitch. Next season they will be playing European football after their Capital One Cup triumph over Bradford.

Twenty years ago it was their South Wales bitter rivals Cardiff City who were tasting the title champagne and it looks like the Premiership is within their sights now as they sit pretty at the top of the Championship table.

Wigan Athletic won that title four years after Cardiff, in a chase for honours that saw fellow Premier League side Fulham finish second.

Brighton have taken their time to reach their full potential - not helped by ground problems - but now in a new home they are chasing a play-off place in the Championship this season and building what is a solid club now at the AMEX.

But while there have been great success stories there have also been some clubs who have failed to make the most of their success.

Poor old Rushden & Diamonds won the league a decade ago but back-to-back relegations saw them drop into the Football Conference before they eventually folded under the weight of crippling debts.

Plymouth Argyle had won the title the year before Rushden and they too have suffered a tale of financial woes. Just two points separate them and the relegation places in League 2.

But for the majority of clubs who have won this League 2 title, they have at least held their own or gone onto bigger and better things.

Chesterfield came straight back down last season but few others have.

Of the last 20 title winners 12 (which includes two wins for Carlisle, in 1995 and 2006) are in League 1 and only two are playing in League 2.

Wigan and Swansea are having contrasting fortunes in the Premier League, while Cardiff and Brighton are both dreaming of reaching the top flight this season.

So for the Gills there is not just a title to aim for but much more. This could be the start of great times ahead. If Mr Scally can get his dream stadium as well, which will boost revenue and crowds, there is a fairly well trodden path to bigger and much better things ahead.

Now with six games left let’s hope the Gills can match what the team of ‘64 and take the title.

All-action fixture-list could benefit Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, March 18 2013

THE LAST few weeks of the season often sees a number of dead-rubber fixtures that mean little to either team.

But the fact that there could be something riding on every Gillingham game from now to the end of the season may well benefit Martin Allen’s side.

The sticky moments this season have arisen when teams have sat back deep, settling for a point.

But with Gillingham’s last eight games being against either promotion hopefuls or relegation threatened teams, nobody will have the luxury of settling for a point.

At the business end points aren’t going to be any use to anyone. It means teams will have to play more open football and that could suit the Gills, as they make the most of that space, like they did at the start of the season.

The rollercoaster starts this Tuesday night when the Gills visit a Rochdale side still needing points to steer clear of an ever-gripping relegation tussle.

Rochdale sit just above a six-way scrap, where only one point separates all six teams.

From Tuesday on it really is make or break for those sides facing the Gills.

Accrington, who visit Priestfield on Saturday, sit bottom of the league at present, with the worst goal difference. Only wins now will save them.

At the end of March the Gills head to a Fleetwood side in the last chance saloon as they chase a play-off place. Draws won’t do for them either.

April begins with the visit of a Rotherham side who still harbour ambitions of gate-crashing the automatic promotion party. Their visit is followed by the arrival of a Torquay side plummeting headlong towards non-league football.

In the first half of the season Torquay were sitting on the edge of the play-offs but with just one win in 18 they are in a desperate state.

In mid-April the Gills head to Cheltenham, where their former boss Martin Allen is sure to come under fire, after a disappointing stint there. The Robins currently sit fourth and could sneak a place in the top three.

Wimbledon are the last team to visit Priestfield and unless they sustain their recent good form, they too could be needing points to keep clear of trouble.

The excitement ends on April 28 when Burton Albion host the Gills. Hopefully by then everything will be done and dusted for the Gills, but for Burton, they may well be looking to take an automatic promotion place alongside Allen’s men.

None of those sides should be sitting back and so hopefully that means the Gills will have space to attack and finish the season off in style, just like they started it.

Gills on course to smash record

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, January 16 2013

IF Saturday’s match gets the green light and avoids the frost it could end up being an historical occasion.

Amazingly the Gills have only ever hit double figures in away wins once before in their history,

That came back in the 1984/85 season under the management of Keith Peacock, where the Gills won 10 and lost 10, while drawing the other three of their away outings.

This season the Gills are already on the nine-win mark, with 10 games left to go, so it’s a near certainty that the record won’t just be beaten - it will be smashed!

That 2009/10 season under Mark Stimson now seems like a long way off, when the Gills failed to win a single game in the road.

So why so good away?

Key to the Gills success on their travels this season has been a solid defence, one that is able to soak up anything thrown at them.

The game at Southend was the perfect example of what’s been going right for the Gills away from home.

Home teams can pile the pressure on as much as they want but with a stone wall to get through, it’s brought in an abundance of points this season.

On the flip side to the Gills’ solid back-line is their ability to hit teams on the break - the old smash and grab routine.

The pace of Myles Weston upfront and those in support, like Whelpdale, Lee and Allen mean that those teams are being punished.

Quite often this season, and as shown in their last two away travels, they’ve got an early goal and teams have just been unable to find an answer back. Gillingham have conceded just nine goals on their travels so far - compared to 14 goals at Priestfield in the same number of games.

To have conceded two sloppy goals last weekend was quite a shock, particularly as winning balls in the air has been one of Gills’ strengths this season. Both goals originated from crosses that should have been defended better.

Rochdale are a team in despair and the Gills could really enjoy themselves if they get an early goal.

The talk from Spotland is that their manager is under a fair bit of pressure and it won’t take much for an already frustrated home crowd to turn against their team.

The covers are on at Rochdale and an army of volunteers are ready for remove the snow on Thursday and Friday. I was told by someone in their office the pitch underneath the covers is “ideal”.

It seems to be an ideal time to play a disheartened Rochdale team and if they do, don’t be surprised to see the Gills bounce back with a bumper win to equal that record set by Peacock and co.

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Categories: Gills | Government

Gills have nothing to fear from Vale attack

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, January 9 2013

 

WHILE everyone is raving about Port Vale’s strike force little has been said about Gillingham’s impenetrable defence.

In the last two games the Gills have kept clean sheets and left keeper Stuart Nelson as a virtual spectator.

Both Southend and Bristol Rovers had spells in those games where they put the pressure on but when the Gills need to defend, they defend well.

An opposition team can have the ball all they want but what Gillingham seem to be able to do lately is stop the shots coming in and that’s only done through hard work and organisation.

New signing Leon Legge is the experienced and mobile defender that Martin Allen has been hunting for ever since Tom Flanagan’s loan period was cut short with injury.

Callum Davies has proved what a quality addition to the squad he has become this season but even he admits that, at his tender age, he is prone to mistakes. His time will come.

For now the combination at the back between Legge and Adam Barrett looks formidable.

The fantastic reception that Barrett got from the Southend fans - where he was once captain - shows what they think of him and at 33 he has plenty left in the tank.

He is a natural leader and an organiser and now Legge has come in and immediately shown everyone what he is about. In the two games, I’m not sure he’s been beaten in the air yet and he has put in some strong tackles, as well as posing a threat at set-pieces for the Gills.

And while the Gills boss has been keen to rotate his midfield and attack, he has understandably kept things solid at the back.

Keeper Nelson has played every minute of every league game and right-back Matt Fish - who would certainly be a player-of-the-year contender if the season ended now - has started every game so far. Only injury has stopped left-back Joe Martin of doing the same in the league.

It’s a defence that is second only to League 1 Swindon in having the best defensive record of the 92 English league teams - averaging 0.84 goals conceded per game.

So Lee Hughes, Tom Pope and co at Vale are going to need to be at their very best if they want to break open the Gills defence.

It will certainly be an intriguing battle, especially now that Hughes is at Vale.

There was little doubt that when he was freed from his contract at Notts County the Gills would be interested. Allen had worked with him before and a record of 66 goals in 146 games speaks for itself.

The Gills boss was in the office at 5.30am on Tuesday trying to get a deal on the table but to no avail.

Luckily for the Gills they already have some quality of their own upfront - without criminal records - and Deon Burton is showing this season what a quality signing he is.

The goal in Bristol was stunning but he doesn’t just score. For a veteran striker his work-rate is phenominal and he can often be seen helping out in defence.

So let’s not worry what Port Vale have to offer. There is quality aplenty in the Gills ranks.

 

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Categories: Gills | Government

Hectic day at Priestfield as Allen trims the fat

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, January 3 2013

IF you weren’t paying attention on Thursday you missed an awful lot.

Mid-season transfer windows usually come and go with precious little activity at Priestfield.

But the arrival of midfielder Steven Gregory on Wednesday, shortly after defender Leon Legge signed from Brentford, took Martin Allen’s squad size to 31 and something had to give.

Cue the departure of four players, the loan departure of one, with another likely to follow, and three heading for the exit door on potential free transfers.

And all this amid rumours of a major signing to bolster the strike force, even if the manager is staying pretty cool on the subject.

So if you weren’t paying attention, then here’s how we stand after a frantic start to the January transfer window.

Boss Martin Allen was hoping to bring in David Wright from Crystal Palace, on a permanent deal rather than a loan, but the Gills were unable to match the demands from the Championship club and so in came Steven Gregory.

He played in the same AFC Wimbledon team as Danny Kedwell as they returned the original Dons back to the Football League in 2011. Allen stepped up his interest in Gregory after sitting in the stands and watching Gregory captain Wimbledon (while there on loan) during their recent FA Cup game against bitter rivals MK Dons.

And the Gills didn’t even need to part with any cash after Gregory was released by Bournemouth on a free just before Christmas.

Allen saved his players from a miserable Christmas by choosing to wait until the festivities were over before delivering the news to those he felt were not going to make the grade.

Making it as a League 2 players is not enough anymore, as Allen said in Thursday’s press conference.

“Everyone that comes in has got to be able to challenge in League 1,” said the Gills boss.

“There is no point in bringing in squad players. Our young players are coming up to fill those gaps and what comes into the building now has got to be good enough to do it again next season and challenge at the top.

“We are not going there (League 1) to make the numbers up, we aren’t going up there to play around with relegation, we can go up there and smash it again; that’s what we are aiming to do.”

So Allen had the task of telling Tom Brunt, Jack Evans, George Humber and Alex Brown that their futures lie elsewhere. All were released.

“One of them (Tom Brunt) told me it was his birthday when he walked into the blinking office!” said Allen, who described the task as being a “horrible” experience.

Allen had bad news for some of his more experienced pros as well.

Striker Ben Strevens, keeper Ross Flitney and defender Connor Essam have all been made available for free, although all will remain Gills players and the door hasn’t been close on any.

Strevens has four strikers infront of him in the pecking order and, contrary to several rumours, all are set to see the season out for the Gills.

“Those four are staying right the way through to the end of the season,” said the Gills boss.

Flitney started the season injured and there is little chance of shifting Stuart Nelson from the number one spot. But even Allen admitted letting Essam go will be tough.

He knows the defender has massive potential and will slap in a 30% sell-on fee if anyone wants him. He is contracted to the Gills until 2015 and Allen said: “The door is not closed and I would be delighted if he forces his way in to be first choice.”

Two more players face time away from the Gills, but with differing reasons.

Bradley Dack is only 19 and has plenty of potential but Allen was keen to get him some game time so contacted Conference Premier side Braintree to see if they would take him. Their manager Alan Devonshire didn’t have to think long, especially as he has got him for virtually nothing.

And lastly, on a frantic day at Priestfield, it looks as though Lewis Montrose has played his last game for the Gills. His contract expires in the summer and he is set to join another club on loan until the end of the season. The deal has yet to be completed so Allen wanted to destination to remain quiet for now.

So that’s it for now, although those asking about Cody McDonald will be interested to here what Allen had to say, so here you go.

“I don’t really know Cody that well,” said Allen. “I know what a good footballer he is but I don’t know what his situation is at Coventry, I just don’t know.

“My priority has been to get a centre back in place of Tom Flanagan and my priority was to get a central midfield player in the position that David Wright was playing.

“It was like a new signing to give Adam Birchall his (league) debut at Southend. He is like having a new centre forward in so I am not banging Mr Scally’s door down to get a new centre forward.

“With regards to that player I am not specifically saying yes or no but what I will say is that I do ask Mr Scally about players and about how we can improve, what we can do to improve, who can we get to improve us, how much it will cost. When he says no I am fine, we just carry on working.”

It’s been a busy start to the January transfer window and it wouldn’t be a shock if we see a little more action before the end of the month.

January transfers should give Gills final push

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, December 18 2012

THE points total may have slowed down a bit for Gills in recent weeks but with January looming things are surely only going to get better.

There is no question over how much the Gills have missed the presence of David Wright as a calming influence at the back and no doubt he’ll be number one on Martin Allen’s hit list.

The defensive midfielder hasn’t played for Crystal Palace since ending his initial loan spell at the club.

Hopefully when the transfer window opens the Gills and Palace can pick up where they left off with the paperwork and complete a deal that wasn’t done in time when the previous window shut.

Apart from the 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale, the Gills were a tough nut to crack with Wright in the team, conceding just three goals in the seven games he played and winning most of them.

Tom Flanagan is another miss. The Gills have some talented youngsters at the back, in Connor Essam, Callum Davies and now Devante McKain, but Flanagan has something the rest didn’t - experience.

It was such a shame to see him pick up an injury just days after celebrating making his international bow for Northern Ireland’s under-21 side.

Another loan defender with a bit of pace and experience will be a valuable addition to the squad. That’s not to say Davies and co can’t do a job if a newcomer doesn’t arrive.

Perhaps a back-up for Myles Weston wouldn’t harm either. He has been a fantastic free transfer signing for the club but there are few others on the books with his pace and direct approach in attack.

Could Allen also be looking at a back-up in the full-back department. Both Matt Fish and Joe Martin are on four bookings - so likely to face a ban soon - and a versatile and experienced player to rampage up and down the wing wouldn’t be a bad move.

Whatever Martin’s plans, January looks like being an exciting time for the Gills fans. Hopefully the extra players coming in will give them that push to take them up as champions. And to think some people STILL moan!

The Gills seem to have money to burn, now chairman Paul Scally and his fellow directors have wiped out the bank loan that had been like a noose on the club’s neck.

Let’s not pretend the debt has disappeared. Mr Anderson and the fellow directors will want their money back at some point, but better them than owed to a bank who could call in the debt at any time.

The money generated from Matt Jarvis, Paulo Gazzaniga, Luke Rooney and Ryan Bertrand will have given the balance sheet a much better look and helped pay off some of those loans. Maybe it means that stadium move - designed to help wipe the debt clean and generate money away from 3pm on a Saturday - can wait a little longer.

Things are certainly looking good for the Gills, with a man in charge that is desperate for that first promotion and title win on his CV. 

Saturday’s attendance showed that the fan-base is still there so let’s hope the second half of the season sees the Gills push on and make this season an historic one.

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Categories: Gills | Government

N-Dubz for president in Egypt?

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, February 3 2011

Preaching about the wrongs of the world can often make a rock star look like a bit of a tool.

Morrissey is viewed as a whining idiot by many, Bob Geldof for all his wonderful charity work comes across as a right moany (insert expletive) and as much as I love his band, U2's Bono has not done himself any favours by jumping on his soapbox over the years.

Yet in some cases it can be noble. When Wyclef Jean ran for the presidency of earthquake ravaged Haiti last year, it came across as a genuine bid to help his homeland in its hour of need.

So make what you will of these comments made to me yesterday by Richard "Fazer" Rawson of Camden hip hop group N-Dubz, pictured left, about the anti-government protestors in Egypt who want the president of 30 years Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately.

"To be honest with you I think the last time I watched TV was a month and a half ago man but I heard something about riots and people getting killed.

"People have got to see we are on the brink of a revolution.

"Look at what David Cameron did with cutting money to universities and the riots that happened in London. Things are about to change.

"People are not going to stand for it man. We are in a different society. Things could get dangerous."

The musings of a philosopher on modern society or the rantings of an out-of-touch pop star who doesn't know any better? For once, I am not making any judgements.

For anyone interested, N-Dubz are playing Margate's Winter Gardens on Monday, April 11 and London's O2 Arena on Saturday, April 30. Tickets on 0844 811 0051.

The full interview with Fazer will be in What's On in April.

****

Talk about striking while the iron is hot! No sooner had the news broke that Jessie J's new single Price Tag had hit No1 on the iTunes chart than she announced she was bringing forward the release date of her debut album Who We Are.

Price Tag was released a little over 48 hours ago but has already raced to the top of the midweek charts. Her debut single Do It Like A Dude is still lodged in the top 10 after peaking at No2, which certainly makes the move understandable.

But the speed and scale is pretty impressive. She is bringing the release date a whole month forward to Monday, February 28. Bringing a release date forward is pretty rare in the music business. The last act to do so were Take That with their latest album Progress but it was only moved a week ahead of schedule.

“Stomp Stomp, I’ve arrived” was Jessie’s battle cry on Do It Like A Dude. Whatever you make of her music, you wouldn't want to bet against the Critics Choice Brit Award and BBC Sound Of 2011 Poll winner sticking around for a long time to come.

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Categories: Celebrities | democracy | dictators | election | Entertainment | Equal Rights | Government | Politics | Showbiz

Vince should have kept things Strictly professional

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, December 23 2010

Vince Cable is no buffoon but he is increasingly looking like one.

He was a thoughtful analyst of the global financial crisis, talking more sense than many other politicians. 

He was a “big beast” in the rather limited Lib Dem firmament who cut a heavyweight figure when it came to choosing David Cameron’s Cabinet.

He was a natural for the Business Secretary role, and he brought a refreshing sceptical style to the role. It was encouraging, for example, to hear him denouncing banks and their bonus obscene culture instead of the half-hearted rap on the knuckles with a feather duster.

In this, he was on the side of the public who have suffered in recession, lost jobs, faced diminishing income from pay freezes, low interest savings rates, and above-target inflation.

In other words, he was one of the more acceptable Cabinet faces.

But then he blows it.

Why does he ruin his reputation when a couple of young doe-eyed “constituents” – aka Telegraph reporters – flutter their eyelids over his constituency office desk.

How can he be so naïve as to fall for this honey trap?

Increasingly, his absurd hat and appearance on Strictly Come Dancing special make him look foolish.

It is worrying for the business community that someone of whom they had such high hopes has let them down by demeaning the image of their sector.

Business already has a tough enough time convincing the public it is a good thing without their main representative in government bringing the subject into disrepute.

What a shame! Vince, who owes keeping his job to the fact that he’s a senior Lib Dem – Tory Lord Young was fired like a Lord Sugar apprentice after saying far less than Cable -  may now be on borrowed time, with David Laws waiting in the wings for rehabilitation in the Cabinet.

He has a lot of rebuilding to do if he is to restore a semblance of respect.

As for the Telegraph’s investigation, what a scoop. Brilliant idea, well executed. After the MPs’ expenses revelations, expect more awards for the Torygraph. 

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Categories: Business | Conservatives | Government

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