In this edition of ‘In Focus’ mkdons.com will take a look at newly-promoted Gillingham, who won npower League 2 last season.
Martin Allen (pictured below) – A memorable name for most at stadiummk, Allen, who began his managerial career with Barnet and then Brentford, became the Dons’ third manager when he took charge of the Club in July 2006. After guiding the then-National Hockey Stadium based side to a League 2 play-off semi-final defeat the following May, Allen was appointed Leicester City manager but left after just four games. Allen has since taken charge of Cheltenham Town, Barnet (twice), Notts County and most recently the Gills, whom he led to League 2 success last campaign.
Martin Allen (left) with his son and Gillingham midfielder Charlie Allen at a training session on Priestfield Stadium pitch.
Key and notable players:
Adam Barrett – Club captain Barrett joined the Gills in August 2012 following his release from AFC Bournemouth and his combative performances at the heart of the defence quickly won over the fans at Priestfield Stadium. Making 43 appearances last season, Barrett was awarded both the Supporters Player of the Year award and the Away Supporters Player of the Year award for his role in guiding the Kent club to the League 2 title. Barrett was also named in the 2012/13 League 2 Team of the Year.
Danny Kedwell – Gillingham's top goalscorer in their League winning campaign, Kedwell is a natural finisher who has spear-headed the Gills' attack for the last two years. Scoring 14 goals in 40 games in 2012/13, former AFC Wimbledon forward Kedwell will be hoping to have a similar impact in League 1 this upcoming season.
Chris Whelpdale – An exciting winger, Whelpdale signed for Gillingham in 2011 after enjoying a brief loan spell in Kent the previous season. The 26-year-old has made a total of 80 appearances for the Gills since then, 44 of which came in 2012/13. While Whelpdale is regularly assisting the likes of Danny Kedwell, he also chipped in with seven goals himself last campaign.
Stadium: Priestfield Stadium (11, 582 capacity)
Nickname: The Gills
Kit: Blue and white pinstripes, blue shorts, white socks.
Formed in 1893 as New Brompton, Gillingham became the official name for the club in 1912.
After dropping out of the Football League in 1938, the Gills quickly established themselves as one of the stronger sides in the Southern Football League and the Kent club dominated in terms of medals.
Then, in 1950, the decision was made to expand the Third Division South from 22 teams to 24 which saw the Gills promoted back into the Football League following a landslide vote. Spending eight seasons in the division, Gillingham were then moved into the newly-formed Fourth Division, a league they remained in until 1964.
Winning their first Championship that year, Gillingham have since endured many highs and lows with the various highs including promotions in 1996, under Tony Pulis, and 1999 under the guidance of Pete Taylor. Gillingham’s League 2 title success last season was their first major success in 12 years.
After narrowly missing out on the play-offs in 2011/12, Gillingham decided to move on from club legend and then-manager Andy Hessenthaler and appoint former Dons boss Martin Allen as chief.
The switch seemed to work wonders as the Gills raced into an early lead at the top of League 2 after winning seven of their opening eight games. Losing just three games prior to Christmas, the Kent outfit sat on-top of League 2 at the turn of the year.
Despite a difficult festive period, the Gills’ good form continued and after losing just twice from February on-wards, Allen’s side were deservedly crowned champions in April, securing a return to League 1.
Allen and Gillingham have been relatively quiet so far this off season as they look to build a side capable of competing at the top of League 1 next season.
The Gills’ only signing so far this summer is that of midfielder Amine Linganzi from Accrington Stanley. The Congo international has signed a two-year deal with the Kent club after impressing manager Allen in 2012/13 with his performances for Stanley.
Gillingham have also offered a new deal to out-of-contract defender Tom Carter while they are in discussions with duo Andy Frampton and Deon Burton about extending both players' stay at Priestfield Stadium. Midfielder Lewis Montrose, however, will not be offered a new deal.
Elsewhere, Allen is hoping to tie up a deal to sign Tommy Forecast, who spent time on loan with the Gills, after his release from Southampton while Danny East has been invited to attend pre-season training with the side.
In terms of out-goings, Allen has placed midfielder Charlie Lee and striker Adam Birchall on the transfer list and young full-back Jack Evans is to join Tamworth once his contract expires at the end of June.