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Sunday, 3 March 2013

A week of change at Priestfield


Welcome to:

"The Pride of Kent"

A periodic look into the trials and tribulations of Division Four side Gillingham FC.


New Gillingham manager James Burrow has spoken to ‘The Pride of Kent’ about the challenge of managing a Division Four club on a small budget, after his first week in charge of the Gills.

Burrow took charge of his first official game on Wednesday night; however the change in management didn’t provide a change in results, with Gillingham losing 3-0 to extend their winless run to five games. New signings Massadio Haidara and Ricardo Vaz Te made their debuts in the defeat, which despite the scoreline was full of optimism, says Burrow:
“Yes, we lost, but I didn’t promise an instant turn-around in results. Haidara and Vaz Te have been at the club one or two days, Cheyrou wasn’t fit enough to start and (Matt) Connolly had only trained that morning, so I thought it risky to throw him in at the deep end. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possession but we did get shots away at their goal, and once our first team is assembled, those shots should turn into goals.”

The disappointment of defeat was soon forgotten the day after, as Gillingham confirmed the arrival of six more players to add to the three signings since Burrow’s arrival. First through the Priestfield’s door was free agent Jonathan Hogg, who had been training with the club and impressed enough to earn a contract. Former Preston and Portsmouth striker David Nugent joined for £5m from Italian side AC Milan, the 27 year old known to be a favourite of Preston-supporting manager Burrow. Utility man Almen Abdi joins from Udinese for a cut-price £4m, the Swiss midfielder able to play either defensive or attacking midfield. Another versatile player, Ritchie De Laet, joins from Lanus for £1.4m plus the swap of Austrian midfielder Muhammed Ildiz, while in another part-ex deal; Marvin Emnes joins the club from Heerenveen for £3.9m plus striker Lucas Melano. Finally, James Perch joins from Division Two side Aston Villa for £4.5m, to almost complete Gillingham’s starting XI. We gained exclusive access to the Gillingham training camp, where we spoke to the manager and a handful of his new recruits, firstly the top man himself:

“Now we can start the ball rolling. Now that we have got some people in, more can leave. These players are just the players I want, not world class players, but the type of players familiar with the situation we are in. Emnes and Vaz Te are more than able to play up front, while Nugent is a natural born finisher who always seems to be in the right place. In Abdi we have a utility man who can be a rock in defence or play just behind the striker. Often players from aboard are cheaper in the long run when it comes to the transfer fee and the wage, once he’s settled he will become a vital part of the Gillingham machine! De Laet, Connolly, Haidara and Perch all have experience of the English league, which is priceless when it comes to achieving results within a short period of time.”

Nugent: “It’s great to be back in England again. Sure, the Italian league is one of the world’s great leagues, and Milan one of the world’s best teams, but the priority seems to be defence, meaning as a striker I felt frustrated by the lack of opportunities to come my way. The manager was keen to bring me to the club, and I will work my hardest to bring great things to this club. I’ve seen Abdi play in a few games for Udinese, and one thing which strikes me is his work-rate, he never stops running. He will be a valuable asset to the team.”

Hogg: “It’s been frustrating being without a club since my release by Watford. I have been chomping at the bit to get the opportunity to prove myself and when Gillingham came calling I couldn’t refuse! Sure it will be a challenge, there are some great players in Division Four but I think once the team has settled, we can easily compete, maybe challenge for promotion.”

Jason Steele was next to join Gillingham, in a swap deal including Guimaraes Gerson. He took the goalkeeping starting berth from Erwin Mulder, who left for Rotterdam for £4.4m. He was joined in the Gillingham exodus by Luiz Felipe (Sport Recife - £6.2m) Ferreira Ari (Ceara SC - £7m) Jeremy Clement (Bastia - £7.7m) Benoit Cheyrou (Bastia - £8.2m) and Marek Suchy (Amkar - £8.3m) Ten of Burrow’s new recruits started in his first home game in charge, a 4-0 victory over Scunthorpe Utd. David Nugent, Marvin Emnes and Matt Connolly all scored on debut, while the one starter from the previous management, defender Alexander Milosevic helped himself to a fourth. We spoke to the manager shortly after the game:

“This has to be one of my proudest moments in management! Last game, I was managing a team built by the previous management, now I have a clean slate on which to build a good team. It’s always a gamble fielding ten players who have only been at the club less than a week, but it paid off, and I’m so glad for the lads. I must admit, I didn’t see Matt (Connolly) getting the first goal of my tenure here, but it was a great goal, from a centre-half. Emnes’s free-kick wasn’t a surprise to me, he’s been banging them in this week in training, he’s proving to be an absolute bargain! Nuge got off the mark with a great header and even Milosevic got in on the goal scoring. Unfortunately he’s picked up a groin injury and looks likely to miss a month, but we have cover. This has been a superb start to my career here and I hope I have many more nights like this."

Gillingham move up a place to 18th with the victory. Join us next week as we listen to the fans perspective of Gillingham’s new ‘financially-oriented’ era. Gills fans haven’t had much to celebrate, with a 6th placed finish in Division Four the biggest achievement for the Kent side.


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