All posts tagged 'Priestfield'

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

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

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

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.

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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Categories: Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

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

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.

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