Everyone and anyone who has spoken to me on social media and at games will know that I was and still am a big fan of Adrian Pennock the football player.
Ady Pennock – top player.
Perhaps legend is a word that gets used all too easily in sport these days, but even if Ady isn’t quite in that bracket, he is certainly a cult hero among the Gills’ faithful and someone who played a massive part in the most successful period of our history.
For that reason I was very willing to give him a chance upon his appointment as manager back in January, the hope being that his knowledge and love for the club would perhaps give him an edge over someone coming in who had no affinity to the Gills.
Quite simply, it has sadly not worked out. Not even close.
When he arrived on his proverbial white stallion back in January all the talk was of having a real go and pushing up the league towards the Play Offs, and with just a ten point gap to bridge and with about half a season to go it wasn’t in the realms of impossibility.
Improbable yes, but certainly not impossible – especially with a squad that boasted the likes of Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Cody McDonald, Scott Wagstaff, Paul Konchesky, Bradley Dack et al in its ranks.
Unfortunately, we are all very aware of how things have panned out since his opening interview where he promised to get ‘bums off seats’ with adventurous attacking football and natural wingers.
How long did that last? A game, maybe two.
Elliot List featured in his natural role in Ady’s opening game reverse at Oldham -who hadn’t won or even scored in ages prior to us pitching up – and it has rapidly declined since then.
We didn’t win any of his first eight games in charge, with creditable draws at Sheffield United and Bradford plus the fact we lost only twice perhaps masking the issues that are now all too clear and apparent.
One winger to have played as a winger under Ady.
And looking back now, his inability to guide us to victories over sides in and around us at the time of playing them has proved to be a massive achilles heel – Oldham, Shrewsbury, Port Vale, Chesterfield, Coventry, Wimbledon, Swindon and most recently Charlton all being prime examples.
Credit where credit is due though, we then won three of the next four to give ourselves some breathing space in what was now very evidently a battle against the drop.
This, however, has been the only ‘positive’ period in what has been a dismal and soul sapping spell watching this club that we love so dear, and when broken down there is a case to be made that all four victories we have accumulated under the ‘football genius’ have been somewhat fortuitous.
At home to Southend we were aided by a penalty and a soft red card for Ryan Innis.
At Bury we were indebted to Stuart Nelson preventing what could have been a hiding.
At home to Scunthorpe we were awful for 75 minutes and won due to being awarded three, YES THREE, penalties in the last quarter of an hour after trailing 2-0.
At home to Bristol Rovers I was not in attendance but was told by plenty that the display was on the whole poor, and only two inspired Cody McDonald strikes got us out of jail in injury time.
Anyway, back to that Play Off charge, that promise of attacking football and that squad of talented footballers……
The promotion push clearly never got off the ground after six points from the first 24 available, and in that time he decided to release both ‘JET’ and Paul Konchesky, as well as sending Billy Knott on loan to free up funds for signings.
All simply a disaster.
It has since come to light that we are paying Emmanuel-Thomas until the end of May….. Yes he was frustrating but was our top scorer at the time of his release, so why not keep him in the squad? Especially since his two seeming replacements Josh Parker and Joe Quigley have just three goals between them since arriving.
Senior left back Konchesky – who granted hadn’t been great in a Gills shirt but was actually a left back, and an experienced one at that – has since pitched up at non-league Billericay Town, seemingly earning upwards of £1000 per week, while we have Bradley Garmston unavailable until pre-season after a campaign of torn hamstrings, and a 16 year old called Aaron Simpson.
This has meant we have reverted to playing a centre back or a winger at left back, or switching to a 3-5-2 system which has worked as well as a lawnmower on a driveway.
And finally Billy Knott, who is now enjoying some game time at Conference Champions elect Lincoln City, who could actually be in the same division as us next term if we go down. And who did we get in? Bondz N’Gala, the brute of a centre back who didn’t step onto a pitch for us due to a breach of football league rules.
So, onto that promise of attacking football, wingers, and getting bums off seats….
Well he’s got bums off seats to a degree, because sadly – despite constantly telling everyone how great us fans are – since arriving attendances have dropped and dropped.
And why is that? Because that attacking football to excite us simply has never materialised.
We have become a dour, boring, horrible ‘kick and rush’ type side that goes long at the earliest opportunity, bypassing any semblance of creative players that we may have on the pitch.
And those wingers…..
Well he has played them. Just not as wingers.
Scott Wagstaff – who has suffered more break downs than a second hand Metro this season – has spent the campaign mainly at right back, left midfield or as part of a narrow diamond.
Lee Martin – the player who shouldn’t be really playing after THAT injury – has played left back and right and left wing back.
Not a defender – Lee Martin is not a left back, or a wing back.
Elliot List has started once in his natural position, but since then has hardly featured, and when he does he gets stuck up top for us to punt long balls in his general direction.
Finally, Harry Cornick – the highly rated winger on loan from Bournemouth – has played at left and right wing back, up front and also in ‘the hole’ when Bradley Dack was unavailable.
Now if only we had someone like, I don’t know, Billy Knott in the squad.
But it’s not just in wide areas where we have put the proverbial square pegs into round holes, because as recently as Monday’s thrashing at Charlton we started the following:
Right back Ryan Jackson at centre back. Left winger Lee Martin at right wing back. Right winger Harry Cornick at left wing back. Attacking midfielder Bradley Dack as a defensive midfielder. Defensive midfielder Josh Wright in ‘the hole’.
Dacky – seemingly now a holding midfielder.
And then at half time we brought on central striker Josh Parker at left wing back, but ironically – and to basically sum up our disaster of a season – he was actually our best attacking threat.
Anyway, enough rabbiting on.
Below is the League One table when Justin Edinburgh was sacked and how it would look after the games played by all clubs since Ady arrived.
|League 1 Table 02-01-17||League 1 Table since Ady|
|at Justin Edinburgh’s dismissal||Pennock’s appointment|
|Club – Points||Position Change||Club W-D-L-Points|
|Sheff Utd 53 points||–||Sheff Utd 11-5-2-38|
|Bolton 50||down 5||Fleetwood 11-5-3-38|
|Scunthorpe 49||down 11||Millwall 8-8-3-32|
|Rochdale 45||down 13||Oldham 9-5-6-32|
|Bradford 42||down 1||Southend 9-3-6-30|
|Fleetwood 40||up 4||Bradford 8-6-4-30|
|Southend 39||up 2||Bolton 8-6-5-30|
|Peterborough 38||down 10||MK Dons 8-6-6-30|
|Millwall 38||up 6||Oxford 9-2-8|
|Bristol Rovers 36||–||Bristol Rovers 7-6-5-27|
|Charlton 35||down 8||Walsall 7-6-5-27|
|Oxford 34||up 3||Shrewsbury 7-5-6-26|
|Wimbledon 33||down 2||Bury 6-7-5-25|
|Walsall 31||up 3||Scunthorpe 7-3-8-24|
|Port Vale 31||down 9||Wimbledon 5-8-6-23|
|Northampton 30||–||Northampton 6-4-9-22|
|GILLINGHAM 30||down 3||Rochdale 5-7-7-22|
|MK Dons 28||up 10||Peterborough 6-3-11-21|
|Swindon 25||down 2||Charlton 4-7-8-19|
|Bury 22||up 7||GILLINGHAM 4-7-8-19|
|Chesterfield 22||down 1||Swindon 5-3-10-18|
|Coventry 21||down 1||Chesterfield 3-6-9-15|
|Shrewsbury 21||up 11||Coventry 4-3-12-15|
|Oldham 19||up 20||Port Vale 3-5-10-14|
Quite simply and obviously, his appointment has not worked out at all.
We are now closer to the relegation zone than when he took over – eight points down to four points – and are also further away from the top six that he was aiming for – 21 points compared to 10.
I believe I read somewhere that he has the worst win ratio – 21% – of any Gills manager EVER, and there are only four teams worse than us since he was put in charge.
Swindon would go above us if they won their ‘game in hand’ and Coventry have taken 10 points since appointing Mark Robins at the start of March, whereas we have only accrued seven. On top of that, if Port Vale do win their actual game in hand there is an increased chance that we will end this season relegated back to League Two.
Not the Play Off charge we were sold in January, or the attacking football.
And sadly, certainly not the work of a football genius.
UP THE GILLS!!