As trying as last season was – not just with the poor performances on the pitch, but also the constant shenanigans off of it – I have always generally tried to be of the ‘glass half full‘ approach to things, especially football.
I’m sure plenty might say that’s the best way to be when following a club like the Gills, but having initially needed a few weeks to recover from last season’s dramatic final day escape, I inevitably started to miss the weekly routine that a football campaign brings.
The return of the beautiful game couldn’t come quick enough, and the summer is a time of year I enjoy in a footballing sense.
There’s not so much pressure on results, and there’s always plenty of ‘breaking news‘ and rumours flying about regarding new signings.
Not to mention a whole new batch of ‘in the knows‘ popping up all over social media.
But how has the Gills summer gone?
For me it can be broken down into ‘the three Ps’……….
It was clear as 2016-17 drew to a close that the squad needed a quite large overhaul, especially after Adrian Pennock’s impassioned speech literally minutes after we had survived.
There was talk of poor attitudes and ‘poison‘ within the club, but I’ll let you make your own estimations as to who those individuals were. Some are easier than others….
But enough about those who’ve moved on, because that’s precisely what they’ve done and we need to do. What of those who’ve come in? For me they – all eight of them to date – look like they’ve got plenty to offer.
Defensively we knew there would be a high changeover of personnel, and the additions of Alex Lacey (sadly only seen for 45 minutes due to a niggling knee problem) Gabriel Zakuani, Luke O’Neill and Connor Ogilvie all look like they could provide us with extra versatility, ability, and perhaps more importantly, additional height and steel.
In central midfield – and perhaps even at centre back if the need arises – Billy Bingham could be the man to fill the void created by what seems to be another pretty serious knee problem for the unfortunate Aaron Morris. In the games I’ve seen him in so far he looks to be a very astute addition, providing a shield to what looks to mainly be a back three, with the ability to read the game, break up play and get us moving forward with a decent enough range of passing.
Offensively we are clearly going to miss the likes of Bradley Dack (Blackburn Rovers) and Cody McDonald (AFC Wimbledon), but as I’ve already touched on, they’ve moved on so we have to too.
The three players who’ve been bought in in forward areas all offer different attributes, but I’m not so sure they’re direct replacements for either of our now departed fan favourites.
Thomas Eaves and Conor Wilkinson are both six foot plus, but possess good ability on the deck. As the old cliché goes, they both seem to ‘have a good touch for a big man‘.
Of the two I wold say that Eaves is perhaps more in the mould of the old fashioned number nine, the target man, but from what I’ve seen Wilkinson also looks comfortable enough dropping deeper and linking play.
On top of that they both know where the net is, each bagging three goals during the eight friendlies.
Our final arrival is the one who certainly has that bit of mystery about him, and he may have a little (or a lot) of ‘X Factor‘ about him, with gaffer Ady Pennock already saying that he is a proper ‘fox in the box‘.
The signing of Liam Nash – nearly 40 goals for Maldon & Tiptree last season – was as refreshing as it was exciting, and I’m sure plenty (not all) of Gills fans are fascinated to see how he progresses during 2017-18.
On top of this the likes of Bradley Garmston, Lee Martin and Scott Wagstaff could also feel like new signings if they can stay fully fit, plus there is a very exciting crop of youngsters who are perhaps banging on the first team door slightly louder than we may have originally envisaged.
The early signs are certainly encouraging.
We all know that generally pre season results have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but I’m sure even the most pessimistic of Gills fans will be encouraged by what they’ve seen over the last few weeks.
From eight games played we won seven and drew one as we remained unbeaten, hitting 26 goals in the process.
Yes, the opposition wasn’t always of the highest calibre, but the most important thing for me was not the goals scored.
Last year we had the worst defensive record in the whole football league, so only six goals conceded and three clean sheets kept is a very encouraging sign.
Another positive point to take is the fact that – despite plenty saying that us signing tall players would automatically mean playing long ball – we have played some really good stuff.
The new signings have allowed us to mix things up, to go long when we really have to, but on the whole we’ve got the ball down and tried to play the right way.
However, if we do revert to long ball and are regularly winning games, will anyone really care? I doubt it.
As encouraging, exciting and entertaining as pre season has been, I am not quite at the stage yet where I’m willing to wager huge sums of cash on us being crowned League 1 Champions come May 2018.
However, from what I’ve watched I am now a lot more (cautiously) optimistic than I was, and I would therefore chose ‘promising‘ as my word to describe how our summer has gone.
Both Ady and Peter Taylor deserve credit for the way they’ve identified areas that needed addressing (yes some were more obvious than others) and for getting replacements in quickly and efficiently.
Upon his full time appointment, I was pretty vocal with my disgruntlement towards Ady, but credit where credit is due.
He now has the job he wants, and with the players he wants, and I will support him wholeheartedly.
It’s now up to him to deliver.
UP THE GILLS!!