Gillingham Season Preview

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The Football Lab interviewed Gillingham fan Simon Chaplin, ahead of the new season. You can follow him on Twitter @moodyblue2. Here, he discusses the signing of Doug Loft, the need for a defensive re-shuffle, and the highly-anticipated return of the Taylor-Hessenthaler partnership.

The management team of Peter Taylor and Andy Hessenthaler, which guided the club to promotion in 2000, is back together. Will it be a happy re-union?

They certainly seem to work well together. Hoping to see the same kind of football as we did from the 2000 side.

Defenders Joe Martin and Adam Barrett played every match last season, yet generally your defensive record was poor. Would you say more competition for places is needed? Will the new defenders provide that?

Strangely we had the best defence in League Two when we went up as Champions in 2013 but the 2nd worse in League One last season. The keeper and back four were the same apart from the right back as Matt Fish was out for most of the season with a bad injury.

We definitely need competition for left back and with John Egan coming in, hopefully he will challenge the centre backs. Barrett isn’t getting any younger and Legge can be inconsistent at times. Haven’t seen or heard much about Aaron Morris but any competition for places has got to be good for the team. Ideally I’d like to see us sign another centre back and another right back.

Doug Loft has played in various positions, and was handed captaincy at Port Vale. Do you feel the side needs a professional character like that around?

Without a doubt, he’s already captained the side in some pre-season friendlies when Barrett isn’t playing. He looks to be an excellent signing plus he’s a local lad and a Gills fan, like Danny Kedwell.

Steven Gregory was released, having started 35 games last season. Are you satisfied with Josh Pritchard as a midfield replacement?

Some fans weren’t keen on Gregory after he had a shaky start when he first joined. They tended to pick up on his mistakes rather than praising the things he did well. He was excellent at doing the tidying up and consistently breaking down opposition attacks, his distribution could be poor occasionally but I always thought we played better when he was in the team. Josh Pritchard seems a good signing but we have good competition for midfield places, and maybe Bradley Dack, who impressed last season, might start above him. We’ll have to wait and see.

Young Jake Hessenthaler started 18 games last season. Has there been the extra focus on him, with his dad having been a club legend?

No, not really, He’s a different type of player to his dad (and a lot taller!). It is very likely that he will start most games this season and hopefully knock in a few more goals like his goal of the season at Priestfield Stadium v Coventry in 2013/14.

Winger Jermaine McGlashan arrives from Cheltenham. Was it important to add pace to the side?

Definitely, last season we had Myles Weston who was quick but was often let down by his first touch. He could, when he put his mind to it, take players on at will but he was just too inconsistent for my liking. Hopefully McGlashan is a more skilful player. I’m looking forward to watching him play.

Striker Adebayo Akinfenwa has rejected a new contract. In terms of goals, you confident of getting another good season from Cody McDonald and Danny Kedwell?

Big Bayo did a really good job for us last season. It’s not just his goals it’s his hold up play and quick thinking which is surprising considering his size! As for Cody and Keds, I believe Cody scored 18 last season and Kedwell had 10 before he had a hernia operation and then a freak injury when an opposition player fell on his knee.

I can see no reason why they shouldn’t score around 20 goals each if they are given a run in the side plus you won’t see a better penalty taker than Kedwell in League One! (Watch him miss the first one he gets now!)

With most bookmakers, Gillingham are at around 7/4 for relegation. Where will you finish?

I’ve been very pleased with the signings we’ve made and we have a good management team in place who seem to be building a team for the future so I’d be happy with 12th. Can’t see us being relegated.

TFL Verdict

Defensive improvements will be vital, if Gillingham want to avoid the drop. 21st

(Image from http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/gillingham-2012-13-npower-league-a63452/)