Will a new manager mean a new start for Gillingham?
The Shouting Ben on the prospects for Gillingham's new manager, bigoted comments within Priestfield, and some reasons to be cheerful.
Our football columnist Ben Hopkins tapped out almost a thousand words on whether the club can turn things around under a new manager and concluded… maybe.
Life at Gillingham has been a mixed bag since I last shared my dubious words of wisdom. An away win at old rivals Swindon which could have been by more than just the one goal had Cheye Alexander not struck a standard of penalty that you would file alongside Diana Ross at the 1994 World Cup. A blatant racist gesture by a fan made nationwide news as the team slumped to defeat at home to Newport, although at least the club acted quickly to issue a lifetime ban.
But the big news this month has been the appointment of new manager (or to be precise, first team coach) Stephen Clemence after a gap between managers that threatened to drag on as long as the making of The Second Coming by The Stone Roses. Clemence arrived at Priestfield with a decent playing career and plenty of relatively highfalutin coaching experience at Hull, Aston Villa, Newcastle and West Brom. As for specific managerial experience? Well, that’s a rather barren kettle of fish. He was briefly caretaker manager at Sheffield Wednesday but this is his first proper taste of the hot seat, and let’s face it, the head coach position is likely to be the same as a manager, just with more voices contributing to scouting and signings.
Clemence arrived lumbered with an unforgiving opening pair of games. An FA Cup tie at Hereford, two divisions lower, was the kind of banana skin that Gillingham have on occasion tackled with the inglorious grace of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. But he came through it unscathed, avoiding cup embarrassment (hi again Swindon!) with a 2-0 win. And then Wrexham away was always going to have the cynics muttering “I’ll be happy with a draw.” Instead, some defensive slapstick put Gills a goal down within a minute. From thereon in there wasn’t too much to be encouraged by. Clearly, there was an attempt to filter more creative play through Jonny Williams, but beyond that, it was a mediocre effort with some unusually sloppy passing, and a centre-back’s finish from Shadrach Ogie contributed to an afternoon to forget.
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