All posts tagged 'Gillingham'

County identity is oh so boring to us Kent folk

by The Editor's Blog, with Robert Barman Monday, May 5 2014

The writer Stuart Heritage speaks movingly of his ‘agony’ at his Kentish, er, heritage, and his jealousy of people who come from “well-defined” areas like Scotland or Cornwall.

Of course this is classic Guardian, where you'll frequently find hand-wringing articles about poverty and social mobility linking seamlessly to sneering condescension of people who can't afford to live in London and their shocking lack of 24-hour delicatessens.

The usual response to this metropolitan snottiness is to wheel out well-meaning, civic-minded types to get violently upset and misguidedly invite the author to the insulted neighbourhood in order to visit the excellent Park and Ride facilities or award-winning dustbin museum, as if this will force them to eat their words.

Instead it merely sparks further guffawing at the silly small-minded provincials, with their low murder rates and lack of ‘edgy’ theatre.

But rather than keeping me awake at night, I find living in a county with no cultural identity a blessed relief.

People from “well-defined” areas can be crashing bores, who think their country, county, city or town of origin automatically equips them with a set of pre-ordained attributes.

Hence everyone from Scotland is ‘passionate’, Liverpudlians are born with a ‘great sense of humour’ (although John Bishop’s working on that one) and Yorkshiremen are ‘plain-speaking’, apparently something to be proud of.

And let’s not forget that all Irish people ‘know how to celebrate’, a favourite euphemism among sports commentators.

The proud natives who no longer actually live in their beloved homeland are always the worst when it comes to celebrating these questionable character traits.

To be fair to Stuart Heritage, at least he’s put his money where his mouth is by moving away, rather than getting a tattoo of the Invicta horse on his face and quacking on with misty-eyed nostalgia about the views from Rochester Bridge.

He complains that Kent doesn’t have a major football team to rally around. Maybe so but isn’t it a bit boring to live in a place where everyone supports the same club (or one of two, if you’re lucky)?

At my old school, few people were prepared to embrace the glamour of Gillingham in the old fourth division, so we had supporters of Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Stoke City and many more, happily rubbing shoulders and exchanging good-natured abuse in the classroom - surely the sort of diversity to make a Guardian journalist froth with excitement.

Another gripe is that all of Kent's decent bands 'legged it up to London' at the first sign of success. Of course, you'd never catch the likes of The Beatles abandoning their roots like that.

Finally, I’ve always rather liked the confused silence that greets the introduction of Kent contestants on game shows. Better than those boorish oafs who give their place of residence a big build up (often preceded by the word ‘sunny’) in the mistaken belief that it warrants a massive cheer. Some call it civic pride; to everyone else, it’s just annoying.

You can keep your cultural identity; I’m defiantly proud of my county’s unique ability to baffle the studio audience of Take Me Out.

Prolific McDonald standing aside Gillingham greats

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Sunday, February 16 2014

With 13 goals in 17 games this season, and 227 La Liga strikes in total, it’s clear Lionel Messi is on another planet to most players.

For your average striker a one in two strike-ratio is considered good going.

It’s the kind of form that Cody McDonald is on and form that stands up there with the very best strikers to have played at Gillingham.

While George Nicol was banging the goals away with regularity in the 30s and Derek Lewis doing likewise in the 50s, there are only a handful who can compare to McDonald’s strike-rate.

With 42 goals in 77 league games his goals per game ratio stands at 0.55. During Gills’ Football League era few others have been able to boast such stats. 

Gordon Brasted’s four goals in five appearances during the 1956/57 is the best of the lot (ignoring Nathan Nyafli’s one in one), having arrived from Arsenal with a dubious injury record. It was what denied him the chance of properly establishing himself as a real Priestfield hero.

Sustaining a strike record is what’s key and the remarkable thing about McDonald is that he keeps returning and keeps coming up with the goods.

Even Gills hero Bob Taylor couldn’t do that. He left Priestfield for Manchester City after hitting 33 in 61 games – including the unforgettable five at Burnley – but on his loan return years later failed to find the target in 11.

The old adage ‘don’t go back’ certainly applied to Super Bob, although it’s done nothing to take the gloss off his previous exploits.

McDonald netted 25 league goals during his first season, having joined on loan to soften the blow following Simeon Jackson’s move in the opposite direction to Norwich.

Would he be the same player upon his return on loan in January 2013? Gills fans only had to look back a year or two and see what a flop Chris Dickson was on his high-profile return.

McDonald dispelled the fears, scoring four goals in seven appearances, before being recalled. Finally, in the summer, the Gills got their man permanently and once again, he hasn’t disappointed.

With 13 so far, including seven in the last eight, he has now registered 42 league goals from 77 appearances - nine of those coming from off the bench. 

Strikers who aren’t scoring probably don’t like getting judged on their goals – strikers who do score love it. At the moment McDonald is not just scoring with regularity but also putting in a shift for his team-mates.

His strike-rate is up there with the best and some would point to Derek Lewis’ record as the very best.

Inside-forward Lewis joined the Gills from Eastern Counties side Bury Town for just £10. Gills boss Archie Clark soon had a real talent on his hands.

Lewis scored 31 goals in 48 games before the top-flight side Preston paid £13,000 for his services and off he went to partner the great Tom Finney, who sadly passed away on Friday night.

In Lewis’ first season in Lancashire, alongside Finney, he scored 14 goals. An international cap beckoned before tragedy struck. He died of a brain haemorrhage in his second season.

Another golden great was Pat Terry. The big striker tucked away 60 goals in 108 league appearances, while Bill Hales – a regular goalscorer in the Southern League – hit nine in 15 during his spell in the Football League.

Dave Thomas ran the Prince of Wales pub in Gillingham but not before making a name for himself on the pitch at Priestfield. He had a fearsome partnership with Lewis and ended his stint at the club with 42 league goals in 80 appearances.

McDonald is clearly in good company and playing under a manager that knows how to get the best out of him. He’s no Messi but he’s a player that’s writing his name into Gillingham’s history books at least.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Time ticking to secure Gills' star striker

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Friday, December 6 2013

The January sales are close and it’s not only eager shoppers looking to snap up a bargain.

It’s also the time that football clubs re-open for business and at the end of the year there will be some cut-price sales being done.

So is this the time for Gillingham to start thinking about rewarding Danny Kedwell with a new contract? He will be one of several Gills players out of contract in the summer.

Not many will have earned a new one but Kedwell certainly has. And if the Gills don’t want to risk losing their star man, they might have to act quickly.

Kedwell will want to stay with the Gills, without doubt, but can the club take a gamble when higher league outfits can start talks openly with the 10-goal striker in January?

Any manager with a struggling team will be scouring the markets for someone who can get them firing, whether that be in January or for the new season. Kedwell, with 10 goals this season and with a habit of scoring wherever he goes, could be an option.

His record of late will certainly have alerted clubs. Eight goals in his last 11 games is a record any striker, at any level, would be proud of.

This season could have been a tricky one for Kedwell, following the arrival of Cody McDonald and Adebayo Akinfenwa. That pair proved fruitful last time around but the Gills number 9 has left both in his shadow.

The club talisman has led from the front, with goals and attitude, and he’s also proved capable filling positions in midfield and defence.

If he continues as he is, there may not be a need for the end of season awards party, we may as well just hand them all over now.

But the last thing the Gills want is to go into the summer trying to compete with other clubs who wants Kedwell to play for them. As much as he is a Gills fan and loves the club, he is also ambitious, as anyone should be.

Finances may be tight at Gills but this is one player worth breaking the bank for.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Gills hoping change is for the better

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Thursday, October 17 2013

Changing the manager mid-season can often produce an instant impact but Paul Scally’s management changes haven’t always reaped rewards.

Martin Allen’s dismissal came about with the Gills on course for relegation. With just nine points coming from their opening 11 games the Gills chairman acted early.

Scally’s mid-season changes have gone wrong more times than right but at least new manager Peter Taylor has time on his side. He may be here on an interim basis but he remains odds-on to get the gig permanently, irrespective of results in the next few weeks.

Only a disastrous run of results will see Scally turn elsewhere. The Gills chairman may well be leafing through a few CVs but none are likely to better Taylor’s.

The managers from Scally’s early days, Tony Pulis and Taylor – during his first reign – both ended their spells at the end of a season – both following differing fortunes at Wembley.

Andy Hessenthaler – taking over from Taylor - may have guided the Gills to their highest position ever in their history but in 2004 his time was up. A 4-1 defeat at Crewe led to Hessenthaler’s departure, after the manager and chairman had a frank discussion about which direction the club were heading.

In came Stan Ternent and although the results improved, the situation didn’t. Hessenthaler had left the club sitting second from bottom, with 15 points from their opening 20 games, with their only wins coming against Leeds, Preston, Burnley and Wolves.

Ternent almost doubled the points-per-game ratio but too many draws proved costly. Many wished he had come in earlier, as the Gills dropped out of the Championship by the narrowest of margins. Just a single goal separated themselves from Crewe, who were safe.

Neale Cooper was next in the hot-seat, as Ternent returned back home up-north, following his first ever relegation. Cooper’s reign was short-lived and painful. An embarrassing FA Cup exit at Burscough was followed by a limp performance at Walsall and that was enough for Mr Scally to send the Scotsman packing.

Gills were sitting 21st in League 1 with 17 points from 17 games. This time around the new manager at the helm would have plenty of time to put things right. And no-nonsense Ronnie Jepson did just that. A six-game winning run towards the end of the season helped to keep the Gills comfortably safe from relegation, finishing 12 points clear of the drop, in 14th.

For Scally, it had turned into a shrewd move, although few chairmen would have kept Cooper in a job after a poor effort. Bad signings led to bad results and his hasty exit.

Jepson’s side finished the following season in 16th but Mr Scally was quick to act after a difficult start to the 2007/08 season. With five defeats from Gills’ opening six games, Jepson was gone. Gillingham were sitting third from bottom.

After a prolonged chase, Mark Stimson finally wriggled out of Stevenage and arrived at Gillingham at the start of November. Many of his trusted non-league stars followed him, creating a divide in the camp instantly. It also created a divide amongst the fans. Gills won just seven games that season under Stimson with the club getting relegated in the same position than which Jepson left – third from bottom.

So what now? Gills are sitting 17th and with just two wins behind them. Fortunately Taylor comes into a squad that seem united and up for the fight. It’s doubtful there will be many changes to personnel, although the football might change, with less long-ball and more freedom to express going forward.

Scally has acted early and few managers have as much experience as Taylor. There won’t be any more bold statements about smashing this, or smashing that. If the Gills are still sitting 17th at the end of the season, then it will be a change for the good.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Unwanted record looms large

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, September 23 2013

This time last year I was flicking through the Definitive Gillingham FC stat book as Martin Allen’s League 2 team smashed a number of records.

One year on and they are on course to set a couple more, only this time nobody is boasting.

If the Gills don’t beat Crewe this coming Saturday then it will equal the club’s worse ever start to a Football League season.

Back in 1961, under Harry Barratt, the Gills lost eight and drew one of their opening nine Division 4 fixtures. They also lost 4-1 to Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.

Defensively they were woeful, conceding 94 goals. They ended the season fourth from bottom.

Gillingham are closing in on that unwanted record, but apart from the trip to Wolves, at least they have remained competitive.

Barratt’s side let in five at Crewe, five at Workington and three at Chesterfield, Rochdale and Stockport.

Only on one other occasion did the Gills start their league campaign so badly. That was back in 1903 with William Ironside Groombridge at the helm during the Southern League years.

This time around, Allen’s men have only once seen the opposition score more than a goal more than them, at Wolves. The rest have been pretty tight affairs.

It’s the reason so many fans are still backing Allen to turn it around.

What’s hindering him is a lack of funds. He has a paper-thin squad and little room to manoeuvre.

It will be a shame if this record-breaking team from last season set records of a completely different nature.

Allen has plenty of experience of managing teams at the wrong end and turning things around. He’s going to have to draw on all of his experiences to steer this campaign back onto the right road.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

Gills can't go it a-loan

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Monday, August 5 2013
A glance at the back of Gillingham’s matchday programme on Saturday showed what sort of challenge the club face this season.
With the budget spent now must be the time to start calling in the favours and bringing in some loan talent.
Colchester showed on Saturday what a rich pool of talent there is in the Premier League and for many of those players League 1 is the release they need.
Playing reserve team football will be doing few favours for those lying on the fringes of a Premier League team. Academy matches fail to give them a taste of what life is like on a proper matchday.
At the end of August many Premier League players will have no choice but to head for the exit door if they want first team football.
Clubs must name their 25-man squad at the end of the current transfer window, which runs until August 31. After a brief lull the loan market opens.
Gillingham fans will no doubt be hoping some activity happens at Priestfield a little sooner than that.
Several top-flight clubs with vast squads, including Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool, have already started farming out their future talent.
Swindon have taken four from Spurs to boost their numbers.
Crewe have been boosted by the arrival of Arsenal’s young striker Chuks Aneke while Everton forward Conor McAleny has joined Brentford.
On Saturday there was a classy display in Colchester’s midfield from Craig Eastmond. Their best results last season came with him in the team, along with fellow Arsenal loanee Sanchez Watt. Both have since signed permanently following their release in the summer.
Goalkeeper Sam Walker kept a clean sheet for the U’s at Priestfield. He is on loan from Chelsea, as is young back-up defender Daniel Pappoe.
Carlisle have loaned Manchester United defender Reece James, while Patrick Bamford is another Chelsea export, having returned to MK Dons, where last season he hit 14 goals.
Surely it’s time for the Gills to join the party.
And what’s the harm.
If they don’t work out, send them back. If they do work out, happy days.
Many of these Premier League teams will be happy to see their players in action and are unlikely to ask for much of a contribution financially. With the Gills’ geographical position they are within a train journey for players coming in from the capital.
Gills boss Martin Allen acknowledged he did need more additions at the weekend and that the loan market could be the answer. Matt Fish’s injury highlighted the lack of depth.
Allen is a well connected man and no doubt he has been busy on the phone since the weekend. Let’s hope he can wheel a bit of magic and bring in some new faces to boost that threadbare squad.

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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

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.


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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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Cody arrival in time to boost home form

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, January 23 2013

THE arrival of Cody McDonald is sure to boost Saturday’s gate at Priestfield but will the home fans be going home disappointed again?
There has often been an air of expectancy at Priestfield this season, especially against the lower sides and in many matches the lack of away support has meant for a subdued atmosphere.
It could be a different story this weekend, however. The arrival of a new signing - with rumours of more to follow - has certainly lifted the mood of those who were beginning to show signs of doubt.
McDonald is due to complete the formalities of his loan deal before the weekend.
The players are certainly in the mood and after speaking with both Myles Weston and Stuart Nelson after their training session with soon-to-be-signed Cody this week, there is a real buzz around the camp.
Wins in the next two home games will see the Gills reclaim top spot over Port Vale and I wouldn’t put that past this team now.
There is also the chance that David Wright could also be involved again soon and a deal could even be concluded by this weekend, although we may again be faced with an anxious deadline-day wait.
It will be sad to see Jack Payne leave (in a swap deal) - as it was to see Connor Essam head out of Priestfield this week - but the current management team have got this Gills team chasing a league title so fans will just have to keep the faith.
What we all know, however, is that a league title won’t be won on the current home form that we’ve seen of late.
But I’m confident that will change soon. This is a side that earlier on in the season was hitting four goals most weekends at Priestfield, including against League 1 Scunthorpe in the cup.
The players are confident that they can turn this home form around and the manager certainly is, not that it is something anybody is losing any sleep over.
If I was a York fans I’d be concerned. They’re lacking firepower at the moment while the Gills have it in abundance and surely there is only going to be one winner this weekend.

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Categories: Gillingham and Rainham Conservative Association | Gills

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

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