This season, we will be gathering the views from our opponents’ local press on their team, progress and hopes for the season. As we prepare to face Gillingham in our Carabao Cup clash at The Den, we spoke to KentOnline’s Gills reporter, Luke Cawdell.
What was your view on last season at Gills?
It started badly but ended promisingly, to sum it up. Steve Lovell was finally given the chance to manage the team – he first applied for the job back in 1993 - and he got instant results, bringing a more attacking edge to the team. It’s been a long wait to prove what he can do as a manager and so far, it’s going well.
How would you assess the summer, pre-season and the club’s transfer business?
The major changes over the summer were to the midfield department, with experienced players like Lee Martin, Scott Wagstaff and Jake Hessenthaler making way for some players who have been unproven at this level. Josh Rees has yet to show what he can do because of injury, but Regan Charles-Cook (ex-Charlton) has impressed. Brandon Hanlan, playing upfront, has been excellent in the first two games. The newcomers bring energy, youth and hopefully goals to the team.
What are the club’s hopes for the season ahead?
The previous two seasons saw the club too close to the relegation places for comfort and keeping clear of the battle down there is obviously something everyone wants. The defence was pretty solid last year and with some more attacking threat added to the squad, there is no reason they can’t be pushing for a play-off place.
Who would you describe as Gills’ key men?
Tom Eaves was last year’s top scorer, just missing out on his 20-goal target. The big striker came off the bench at the weekend and scored twice in the 3-1 win over Burton. Billy Bingham has looked good since returning from injury, helping to control things from midfield, while Gabriel Zakuani in central defence has the captain’s armband and seems to get better with age. It’s the likes of Hanlan and Charles-Cook who the defenders are probably going to fear the most though, with their non-stop running.
What do you make of Steve Lovell’s progress with the team?
He has stamped his mark on it over the summer with the additions of some younger players, several of whom he has coached before at different clubs. He sees potential in those players and they are so far delivering. He has certainly improved the team’s threat level and fans have been entertained in the first two games.
Do you think the club are capable of pushing up in League One towards the top half or potentially even further this season?
Yes, certainly. It’s too early to say just how far they can go but nobody in this division should worry them. Sunderland may have the resources and the likes of Barnsley and Portsmouth are likely to be up there this season but Gillingham, priced by the bookies pre-season as relegation fodder, could be one of the surprise packages in this division.
Your score prediction for Tuesday’s game?
Could depend on the teams selected, but I’ll go for a 2-1 away win.