Jake Hessenthaler: Stepping Out Of The Shadows

Back in the summer the club lost one of its modern day legends when Andy Hessenthaler left to take up a role at Leyton Orient.

Hessy had become part of Gills folklore during his near two decade association with the Gills, but his departure didn’t mean the name Hessenthaler was no longer linked to Gillingham Football Club.

There is still Andy’s son Jake, another central midfielder.

Perhaps not in the mould of his all action father, but a central midfielder nonetheless.

A (very) young Hess on loan at Tamworth.

Having been out on loan in 2012-13, young Hess made his first team debut in the November of the season after.

He went on to make a further 19 appearances on route to picking up the club’s Young Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards.

Scoring that goal versus Coventry……..

…..which lead to them awards.

Had the club unearthed another gem?

The start of 2014-15 saw him as one of the first names on the team sheet.

Gaffer Peter Taylor clearly rated him, but sadly there were still murmurs that he was only being picked because his dad was the club’s Assistant Manager.

But surely he wouldn’t have featured in 26 of the 30 games up until the turn of the year without some ability?

Yet the doubts remained.

Some fans claimed Jake was being picked because of his father.

Of course he was by no means the finished article, and at times it did seem he was struggling to step out of his illustrious father’s shadow.

But it has to remembered he was a young lad playing in a side that was struggling for form and for confidence.

By the time Taylor was dismissed on  New Years Day the Gills were in a relegation battle.

Form and results improved after the appointment of Justin Edinburgh in February, but illness and injury meant that Hessenthaler missed about 50% of games between scoring in the 3-0 win at Swindon at the start of March and the end of the campaign.

During the summer, particularly after his dad left, there was plenty of chat on social media of how he may also move on.

Some sadly were even happy for him to go.

Competition for a starting berth for 2015-16 grew further in the form of new arrivals Jordan Houghton, Emmanuel Osadebe and latterly Josh Wright.

The opening day saw Hess on the bench, but he came on to replace Aaron Morris at the interval on route to helping his team beat Sheffield United 4-0.

Yet some  still weren’t happy, bemoaning his introduction and even labelling him the squad’s ‘worst midfielder’,

How can you justify criticising a player when he hasn’t even kicked a ball in anger during a campaign?

Madness.

Thankfully he got his head down, and the following Tuesday his late winner secured progress in the League Cup.

He has gone on to feature in every game so far this season, starting five.

He seems to be playing with a new found confidence. The passing repertoire has always been there, but now he seems to be playing with more freedom and bravery.

He is taking players on more, and he is certainly making a concerted effort to run in behind more.

His winner versus Doncaster sent the Gills back to the summit of League One, meaning he now has two goals in eight appearances this term.

Hess now has more goals than in any other season.

That already represents his best goal scoring return, having netted only twice in his previous 64 games.

As I have already mentioned, he is still young – like plenty of our current squad – and can still improve.

However, some of the stuff that has been thrown at him is utterly astonishing, and totally uncalled for.

I certainly hope that he stays with the club for a long time, because he may just be starting to step out of that very famous shadow.

If he is our ‘worst midfielder‘ then we are doing absolutely fine.

UP THE GILLS!!

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