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Club News

LEAGUE ONE FOCUS: GILLINGHAM

4 July 2014

Gillingham are the only Kent-based club in the Football League.

Established in 1893 as New Brompton, they have only ever played as high as the second division of English football, with an eleventh-placed finish in 2003 proving to be their highest positional finish.

Nicknamed the Gills, they play their home matches at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, a 11,500 capacity stadium which they have played at since their inception. Rugby League side London Broncos also play at the ground, as did Brighton for a season shortly before the Millenium.

They were promoted from League Two in 2012/13, a season in which we met in the FA Cup, as they won 4-0 at their ground. Before that, our last meeting was in 2006/07, when we did double over them in the league. In 34 league matches between the clubs, Scunthorpe have won on 12 occasions, drawing 13 times and lost nine.

With few local teams in the Football League, the Gills’ closest rivalries are with Millwall and Swindon Town, who they will play in the 2014/15 League One season.

The club traditionally play in a blue and white colour-schemed home kits and they have a strong support, as they averaged just over 6,200 fans at home games in 2013/14.

Manager: Peter Taylor
One-time England manager Peter Taylor has quite a reputation in football, having first worked within the game in 1970. The winger, now 61, made around 400 professional appearances, starting with three year spells at Southend United and then Crystal Palace.

Four years at Tottenham ensued before he moved to Leyton Orient, where he had a loan spell at Oldham, before permanently joining Exeter City, the last club of his full playing career. He earned four England caps 1976, scoring twice.

Dartford gave him his first opportunity as player/manager and he saw the club’s attendance more than double under his reign. Spells as manager of Southend United and Dover followed until the FA offered him a role as manager of England’s U21 team, a role he took up again eight years later.

After England, he spent a year in-charge at Gillingham and Leicester, whilst also taking charge of England as caretaker manager for one game after Kevin Keegan’s sacking. He famously gave David Beckham the captain’s armband for the first time as they lost in Italy.

He later managed Brighton, Hull, Crystal Palace, Stevenage, Wycombe, Bradford, Bahrain’s national team, England’s U20’s for their World Cup and he joined Gillingham after Martin Allen’s dismissal before Christmas.

Key Player: Stuart Nelson
In his second season with the club, Stuart Nelson endeared himself to the Gillingham faithful as many eye-catching performances landed him the Supporters’ Player of the Year award for 2013/14.

He surpassed 300 professional career games at the beginning of this year and he has the date of his first match tattooed on his wrist.

The 6ft tall goalkeeper, aged 32, made 50 appearances for the Gills as they secured their League One status for a second successive year. His performances have also endeared him to the club’s hierarchy, as they handed him a new two-year deal at the end of last season.

He started out with Doncaster in 2002, only making two appearances, before moving onto Non-League Hucknall Town for a season.

Brentford brought him back to the Football League with a £10,000 investment and he spent three years with the Bees, before playing for Leyton Orient, Norwich, Aberdeen and Notts County, before joining the Kent side in 2012.

He is now nailed down to the club until 2016 and he will be key to their position in the League One table in 2014/15, hungry to add to another promotion with the Gills to his CV, having won the division with them in 2012/13.

Last Season
The 2013/14 season was a season of stability for Gillingham, as it was their first back in League One after winning League Two in the previous season.

They avoided relegation by six points, despite changing managers.

The Gills started the season by losing their first ten games (including one in the Capital One Cup) and, despite overseeing their promotion the previous season, Martin Allen was relieved of his duties after just two wins in their opening eleven league matches.

Their form picked up under Taylor, winning four of their first seven matches in 2014 and, whilst they still lost games, they didn’t string a run of winless games together as they picked up plenty of points in between to avoid the drop.

Cody McDonald is one player who was key to this, as he finished in the division’s top ten scorers’ chart, as he netted on 17 occasions for the Gills, with summer signing Ade Akinfenwa, who has left for Wimbledon this summer, scoring ten goals, as did Danny Kedwell.

Stuart Nelson is also a reason for helping them stay up, as his key saves saw them lose much less than they may have without him. The Gills ended the season with 15 wins, eight draws and 23 losses.

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