Gillingham FC meeting the opposition

Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers travel to play-off chasing Gillingham FC, on Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to winning ways. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Daily Mail Sports Reporter Lewis Browning. 

Hi Lewis, when did you start following Gillingham? What was your first experience of the club like?

I started following Gillingham when I fell in love with football in 2007. I got free tickets through my school and was just hooked, even though I didn’t know what was going on in my first game.

It was a 2-1 defeat to Port Vale – start as you mean to go on – and I say in the infamous scaffolding end with my dad. It hammered it down.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Gills fan so far?

My favourite moment is still the 2009 play-off final when we earned promotion from League Two with a last minute winner. Winning the title in 2013 was great too, and I’ve had some pretty good away days, probably highlighted by beating Brentford last season.

In terms of worst, it would be last season when we were on the brink of falling out of the Football League and running out of money. The Galinsons saved us and literally turned the club around. 

Gillingham play their home games at the Priestfield Stadium. The venue has a capacity of 11,582. What are your thoughts on the ground and where should away fans go to forget the football?

It’s been our home forever so that’s what it is, home. I think our aspirations are to move away but that won’t happen any time soon. I know people joke about the away end but I find it a little bit embarrassing. In terms of the pubs, I can’t actually help at all, sorry!

Gillingham are positioned ninth in the league, it’s quite a turnaround following last season’s 17th placed finish. How happy are you at the moment?

Not at all to be honest with you. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I’m staggered we are competing. We are the lowest scorers in the league and have played some really bad football. Replacing Neil Harris with Stephen Clemence really hasn’t worked out, but, again, we are up there and you never know. 

Brad Galinson has been successful since he took over as Owner in 2022 from the long-serving Paul Scally. What are some of the best changes he has implemented so far and what are the current plans looking forwards?

The first one was injecting money into the playing squad last January to save us from relegation. He’s also been very communicative with fans, being really open and honest, and has instilled a number of things to make the match going experience better, where it is something simple like LED screens or deals on tickets.

He’s also a really nice bloke. I cross him and Shannon – who has been equally as great and important – when they come to home games and they also have time to talk and say hello to anyone that wants to.

Brad wants to get out of League as soon as possible. He said that at the start of the year. He talks about the Championship and beyond. He’s a big dreamer but that can’t be a bad thing – I think Shannon is the one who is a little bit more realistic!

Stephen Clemence was appointed Gillingham manager in November ‘23, taking over from former Millwall man Neil Harris. What are your thoughts on Clemence? His 5-3-2 playing style and relationship with fans.

I’m not a fan at all to be honest. The main thing for me has been his connection with fans. Harris had a really good one, Clemence is dull in the media and you can tell he’s learning on the job in terms of his management style.

We started refusing to play a long ball and then turned into the most direct team ever in the blink of an eye. He wants to play 4-3-3 but has been pushed into this wingback system. It’s helped a bit, our defence record is good, but the football is still poor.

Could you talk to us about the current Gills squad?

Do I have to?! There are major gaps. The defence is good – I’m glad Clemence has swapped number ones and put Glenn Morris back in goal over Jake Turner. On the pitch it’s fine but Romeo Hutton has brought off-field baggage and he was booked alongside Conor Masterson after the two squared up to each other in the loss to Barrow.

We miss legs in midfield to go alongside Ethan Coleman with Dom Jefferies likely out for the season and lack wide players. Jonny Williams is a good player but we’ve not got the most out of him.

Up front, it’s frankly nearly the worst front line I’ve seen in our history, second to the one at the start of last season. It lacks goals – that’s the bottom line – no matter who it is. The recruitment team has questions to answer around that.

Gillingham had their good run of form put to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Barrow on Tuesday night. What went wrong? Do you believe that there is still a good possibility of the club finishing inside the Play-offs following that result?

I think we just ended up reverting to how we have been under Clemence. We didn’t have a shot for ages and our play was poor. Normally if you (the opposition) score, you win, because we lack goals majorly. We could get play-offs, it only takes a run and we are somehow up there, but I’m not sure we will.

The last meeting between the two clubs was in late November. Tranmere won 3-1 as in-form loanee Rob Apter struck twice. Can you remember what your thoughts were of that performance? Gillingham dominated possession but failed to make it count.

I didn’t attend the game but I remember being very frustrated by the result because we were a lot better positioned than you at the time. It was one of Clemence’s first games when he wanted to play the 4-3-3, possession-based style, before ripping it up.

Connor Mahoney is Gillingham’s current top scorer with five goals and three assists in 31 games. Could you give us a quick report on the Huddersfield Town loanee?

He was a Neil Harris signing. He’s been VERY hot and cold, being shoehorned into our current team in a central role due to the system before losing his place to Williams. I’d be surprised if he starts Saturday, and he won’t be here next year. 

In the January transfer window, 25-year-old full-back Remeao Hutton was signed from Swindon Town. What has happened since that horror initiation video? How has he been playing?

He’s brought bad PR. I think the club were wrong to let it die out, but the big issue at the start happened and then he had a bit of a tussle with Conor Masterson on the pitch against Barrow. Good player, but way too much baggage.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere? Nigel Adkins’ side are struggling at the moment.

Yeah, it’s probably been a season to forget for you guys but I imagine you’re happy to be out of danger considering what you had been facing. I imagine you’ll be happy to beat Sutton given the results before that but, with all due respect, I guess you’ve been one of the more irrelevant teams this season. Hopefully it’s better next year, but I will back us to win this weekend.

Gillingham FC play their home games at The Priestfield Stadium.

Tranmere were beaten 2-0 the last time they travelled here, in March 2023. 

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