All posts tagged 'Gills'

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

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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Categories: Gillingham | 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

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

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

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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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Kuffour signing key for Gills' promotion push

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, November 15 2011

GILLINGHAM are aiming to keep Jo Kuffour on a permanent basis and that deal could well prove to be one of the most important of the season for the club.

Boss Andy Hessenthaler has instructed the Gills chairman to do the business and bring Kuffour to Priestfield on a permanent basis, after the striker’s impressive first five weeks at the club.

Bristol Rovers’ loss has been Gillingham’s gain after the livewire forward hit a hat-trick last week to help beat Northampton - taking his goal tally to five goals from eight games since arriving on loan from the Pirates.

He has not just contributed goals but has also given summer signing Danny Kedwell much-needed support in attack.

Before Kuffour the Gills lacked sharpness upfront and had nobody with experience to help fill the void left after Adam Birchall was left sidelined for the season with injury.

Kuffour has been a Gills target for some time and he has been a class act in the eight games he has played. The way he tore apart Torquay’s defence at Plainmoor showed he has the skills to make a mockery of League 2 defences - as he did again against Northampton.

Without him, the Gills just haven’t got the attacking presence upfront to sustain a promotion charge.

League 2 defenders are not used to the kind of movement that Kuffour possesses. He is quick, alert and intelligent and enjoys working off a big man like Kedwell. He is ideal for Gillingham and hopefully Gillingham will be ideal for him. He has already decided he wants to stay near to his London home permanently and he has clearly got the hunger back after moving to Priestfield. Hopefully he and the Gills can come together and sort out a long-term solution.

Fellow West Ham forward Frank Nouble has also made a valuable contribution but his loan can only be extended for a further month before he must return to the Championship side. Short term loan rules mean he can stay for a maximum 92 days. Hessenthaler is due for talks this week with Nouble to keep him until mid December, having already had positive vibes from Ian Hendon (West Ham development manager) and Hammers boss Sam Allardyce.

Kuffour and Nouble both return for the Gills this weekend and both will be back in the starting eleven.

For Gillingham fans the sight of Kuffour back on the field will be a big boost and now they will be hoping the club can get the business done behind the scenes to keep the striker at the club permanently.

His current deal may not expire until the end of December but if he keeps scoring goals and making things happen then other clubs will start sniffing around.

Gillingham must act fast to get their man. He is a striker who can make a real impact in League 2 this season - with or without the Gills.


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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

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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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Record breaking Gills

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, September 20 2011

HISTORY was made on Saturday and I wasn’t even there to see it!

Quite ironically I was due at Gillingham FC’s board room at 7pm, for a non-football related party, so I left the match in the capable hands of Matthew Panting.

Needless to say I was a little miffed, after watching some pretty crass football of late, to hear that the Gills were turning it on at Hereford.

I had seen the second half capitulation at Rotherham, the late goal at Barnet, the woeful display against Accrington and the failure to finish Southend off.

What a shock to hear that the same players were in the throws of a record breaking outing.

Stefan Payne’s goal made it six and that for the Gills made it their best ever Football League away result - beating the 5-0 win at Burnley achieved in February 1999 with all the goals scored by Bob Taylor.

It had the statos busily checking the history books and my own collection got an airing.

Most useful was Tony Brown’s complete record that informed me that, as New Brompton Football Club in 1894, their first league game ended with a 6-0 win at Sheppey.

That was in the Southern League so that doesn’t count. If we are talking best ever away wins EVER then the Southern League era certainly threw up some big scores, including 7-2 at Chesham and 6-0 at Old St Stephens.

In 1923 the club recorded a 6-0 win at Nunhead in the FA Cup and during the Second World War the Gills beat Maidstone 7-0 in the Kent Regional League (Eastern Group). Football that season was abandoned shortly after a 6-1 win at Dover in the Kent Senior Shield.

Gillingham saved their best away performances for the 1945/46 Kent League season when they recorded an 8-1 win at Folkestone and a 9-2 victory over Canterbury-based army side 12th ITC (just a couple of weeks before beating them 10-1 at home). That remains their biggest ever away success.

The goals have sadly dried up in the last 60 odd years so congratulations to the 255 travelling fans that can say they were there and the one KM reporter in the press box who probably goes away wondering what on earth the pre-match doom and gloom was all about!

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Countdown for Hess to fix attacking problem

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, August 2 2011

Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler

Gillingham are just days away from the start of the season but the injury to Adam Birchall has left a niggling doubt about where the goals will come from.

The Gills have already lost their top four goalscorers from last season, with Cody McDonald (26), Adebayo Akinfenwa (11), Andy Barcham (6) and Chris Palmer (5) all departing in the summer. Between the four of them they netted 48 of the club’s 68 goals during the previous campaign.

 The likes of Chris Whelpdale and Charlie Lee are sure to weigh in with their fair share this season but the injury to Birchall has left the Gills seriously light up-front.

Both Dennis Oli and Stefan Payne are still working on their fitness and it looks as though Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler will go with a 4-5-1 formation, playing Danny Kedwell as the lone striker.

That means he will need plenty of support from his team-mates and the Gills will need goals from midfield - something they didn’t get last season.

The Gills have played some great stuff in pre-season at home, at times out-playing superior ranked opponents in Leyton Orient, Millwall and Peterborough, but the lack of goals has meant they haven’t been able to boast of any wins in those three big encounters.

Hessenthaler has scrapped his attempts to bring in a new coach and wisely decided to invest the money in another striker, or possibly two. Southend trialist Matt Paterson has already departed, having failed to impress sufficiently.

Norwich clearly want a ridiculous sum for Cody McDonald, so no wonder the Gills pulled out of any negotiations there pretty early. There does, however, remain the possibility of a loan move but that would be a long shot with League 1 and Championship clubs sniffing around. Norwich’s problem is the valuation. Championship teams may be able to afford half a million pounds plus, but don’t want to gamble on a player with an okay League 2 scoring record. Teams lower down can’t afford him but know he would do a job.

There has been talk of Charlton’s Paul Benson coming on loan. He pulled out of a permanent move to Notts County as he didn’t want to move north but whether the Addicks want to send him out on loan when they have few attacking options of their own seem unlikely.

Hessenthaler has no doubt been speaking to West Ham’s newly installed development coach Ian Hendon. He and Hessenthaler remain close, despite Hendon’s awkwardly timed decision to move to Upton Park. Fans will remember Matt Fry’s impact recently and know there is un-tapped quality just waiting to be unleashed at clubs like West Ham. And this seems to be Hess’s best bet.

He can try Kedwell as the lone striker and with a Premiership/Championship teenager on the bench he will have options if things aren’t going well. Gills fans may have to accept an unfamiliar name coming into the club as cover for Birchall but give them time - they could well be as good as, or even better, than the man they are coming to replace.

What’s for certain is that Hess needs someone with pace and energy to work off Kedwell and he shouldn’t be short of options when looking at the over-sized squads of the teams in the top divisions.

Time is ticking.


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Categories: Gillingham FC | Gills

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