Gillingham FC meeting the opposition.

Gillingham FC meeting the opposition.

Last season, The Gills were relegated from League One as a managerial change which saw former Millwall gaffer Neil Harris being brought to the club wasn’t enough to maintain their third division status.

The Gills have started this season in a fairly mixed fashion, winning one and losing one, and next they travel to Merseyside as they come up against Micky Mellon’s Tranmere. The last meeting between these two club’s at Prenton Park finished in a 2-2 draw, ahead of Saturday afternoon’s match I caught up with Gills fan Lewis Browning.

Lewis, thank you for your time answering the upcoming questions. You’re a freelance sports reporter for Mail Sport, Kent Sports News and others but what does Gillingham mean to you? How long have you supported the club for? 

Gillingham means the world to me! Football plays such a big part in all areas of my life, and Gillingham is the main part of football for me personally. So yeah, huge.

I was quite a late bloomer when it came to getting into football. My first game was in 2007 when I was eight – we lost 2-1 and it rained a lot. 

Last season, Gillingham were relegated from League One as Vadaine Oliver finished as the club’s top goalscorer with eleven in all competitions. How do you reflect on the 2021-22 campaign as a whole?

It was a disaster to be honest with you. Everyone knew it would end badly with Steve Evans, but no one could have predicted it would be that bad. The squad was awful, the atmosphere was toxic and I hated going until Neil Harris came in. Thank God that’s over now, but we’ve paid the consequences. 

This summer, there has been a relatively big turnaround as thirteen new players have been brought to Priestfield Stadium either on a permanent deal or loan. Are you happy with the business that the club has done in the off-season? Would you say that there are still some positions that need to be strengthened? If so, which positions would they be?

I’m happy with the business but it’s no secret we need a few more through the door. As you say, there’s been a big turnover of players and it will take time for the new squad to gel, but it was needed because last year’s squad was really poor.

We’ve probably improved the personnel even though we’re in a lower division. We still need a centre-half desperately, as well as a wide player and maybe another striker. 

Former Millwall and Cardiff City gaffer Neil Harris was appointed earlier this year. Despite the relegation, Is the future bright with him at the helm? What is his playing style?

Harris did everything but keep us up last year. When he came in we were 10 points adrift, and we went down on goal difference. 

It felt like we were going to stay up but it wasn’t to be. I can’t believe we’ve bagged a manager of his quality – we’re very lucky to have him. He’s perhaps known for being a bit direct, but we’ve definitely kept the ball better in this division so far and I think he knows we can do it with the kind of players we have right now. 

Paul Scally is Chairman of The Gills and has been so since 1995. What are some of the greatest things that he’s done at the club in the last 27 years and if you could change one thing, what would that be?

I won’t lie, I’m bored of talking about him! He saved our club from almost certain liquidation in 1995 and he clearly had a lot of love for it. We’ve enjoyed promotions, Championship seasons and a title winning campaign but the love is clearly gone and he’s stepped aside for a little bit, appointing Paul Fisher as co-chairman. It’s been a breath of fresh air. I just wish Scally was a little bit more caring towards his employees and honest in what he says, because he’s reportedly told a lot of lies and not followed up on his promises on too many occasions. 

Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the key battles lie come Saturday afternoon? Touching on the strengths that your side has, which league position do you view as a realistic ambition for this season?

I think our midfield is very good. We’ve been lining up with a 4-2-3-1 and Shaun Williams, Olly Lee and Ben Reeves are a very good trio for this level. They’re comfortable on the ball and creative, so that will be interesting to watch. 

I’d probably say the main man is Jordan Green. He’s come from non-league but he’s been so, so impressive so far. He’s quick and tricky and draws a lot of fouls. Teams are teaming up on him at the minute.

Ambition is promotion, but it’ll be hard with the turnover of players. I think a top 10 finish this year before really pushing for promotion next year. 

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in 2019 as a 2-2 draw was played out at Prenton Park.

It’s a weird one really. I thought Tranmere would be right up there but you’ve obviously lost your first two games and that’s been a shock. You’ll be desperate to get on the board at home but we’re a good side. Maybe 1-1. 

If you have been keeping up with Rovers this summer, what are your thoughts on their business and how do you believe the Whites will do as they aim to play with a back five on a consistent basis?

It’s good to give your side an identity so good to see Mellon trying to do that. As I say, I really did expect you to be up there – I like the signings of Jon Nolan and Joel Mumbongo, and I do think you’ll be competing at the right end of the table come May. Good luck!

Gillingham FC play at the Priestfield Stadium Tranmere’s game here will be played on March 11 2023.

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