Gillingham fans have little to be happy about at the moment after their dreadful start to the 2016/17 campaign, currently sitting 17th in League One but have failed to keep a clean sheet since the beginning of April when they were held to a goalless draw at Sheffield United.
Although, it is their fourth consecutive season in the third-tier of English football now and year on year they have seemingly improved their league position, despite the disappointing failure to keep up the promotion challenge they held for so much of the 2015/16 campaign.
One of the club’s recent successes though was in 2013 when the Gills were crowned League Two champions after an impressive year to capture promotion back to League One, where the team ultimately deserve to be in my opinion.
So I am going to look at where the main starting eleven are now three-and-a-half years after that promotion campaign.
The goalkeeper was an ever-present during the 2012/13 season and quickly became a fan favourite at Priestfield among the Gills’ faithful. He had joined Gillingham in that summer and is currently the club’s longest-serving player along with midfielder Bradley Dack – who was promoted to the first-team at the same time.
Nelson made 48 appearances for then manager Martin Allen’s side and was one of the main reasons as to why the Kent team gained promotion to League One, a consistent goalkeeper who knew how to keep the ball out of the net. The now 35 year-old kept 19 clean sheets in that season, one of the reasons as to why he was named in the League Two Team of the Season.
So where is he now? Stuart Nelson is still at Gillingham and is, at the moment, still number one choice. Although boss Justin Edinburgh did bring in Jonathan Bond on loan from Reading in the summer, but he is currently injured. Nelson’s contract doesn’t expire until the summer of 2018 having signed a new two-year deal in June this year.
Fish was a dark horse upon his arrival at Priestfield in 2011, with little expectation after joining from Dover Athletic to link up again with manager Andy Hessenthaler. The right-back was supposed to be the replacement for Barry Fuller and it turned out that Matt Fish did indeed have a lot of potential.
The 27 year-old had an average first season in a Gillingham shirt but the following was one where he made a name for himself at the Gills, being consistently named in the team sheet and with an explosive dribble in his locker, there was no one stopping him from running the flank on his day.
Matt Fish suffered a horrific injury on the opening day of the 2013/14 season against Colchester United and was ruled out for the rest of that campaign. Unfortunately, he was unable to make his way back into the starting eleven and after a loan spell at Portsmouth, was sold by Gillingham to Ebbsfleet United. He is now at Welling though having been released by Ebbsfleet in October, but is yet to make a single appearance for the National League South side.
Leon Legge only joined the club in January 2013, half way through the season, but made an instant impact during his 28-day loan from Brentford, in League One at the time. After small signs of defensive frailties, Martin Allen brought the centre-back in to sort things out at the back, and it proved to be a good move.
With Andy Frampton being the first-choice right-sided centre-half for part of the 2012/13 campaign, Legge was moved into a back-three or five, to fit in with Frampton and captain Adam Barrett. At the end of that January transfer window, Legge was signed on a permanent deal and proved to be vital as the Gills won promotion.
The 31 year-old made 76 appearances for Gillingham in his two-and-a-half-year stint at Priestfield before being pushed out of the team by new manager Justin Edinburgh. Despite being a fan favourite, Legge was released in the summer of 2015. He was, however, quickly snapped up by Cambridge United in League Two and is now a star performer at the Abbey Stadium.
The Gills narrowly missed out on promotion to League One in the previous two years before the 2012/13 season. Incoming boss Martin Allen immediately sorted the defensive issue and brought in experience in the shape of Adam Barrett. No time was taken to appoint the centre-back as captain of Gillingham for the campaign.
Barrett’s regular combative performances made him win the supporters over almost immediately, having started almost every match that season to lead the Kent club to League Two champions. His aggressive attitude made him an unbeatable defender, something which helped as you can see.
After three years at Priestfield, Adam Barrett left Gillingham to join Southend United, a team which he played over 250 games for between 2004-2010. Having been born up the road in Dagenham, it was clear why he wanted to re-join his boyhood club. Barrett now captains the Southend team under manager Phil Brown.
Frampton arrived at Gillingham with somewhat of a reputation, as he spent four years at rivals Millwall and many supporters of the New Den side saw him as a hero who got to grips with opposition strikers. In 2011 he arrived at Priestfield and was appointed captain replacing Barry Fuller.
The centre-back had already spent a year at the club before Barrett joined, so knew what it took to win the hearts of Gillingham fans. The experienced man formed a formidable relationship with Adam Barret, before the arrival of Leon Legge, and even then proved to almost be a brick wall throughout the 2012/13 promotion season.
Andy Frampton left the Gills, having rejected a new one-year contract, to sign for AFC Wimbledon in June 2013. But retired last year having fell down the pecking order at Kingsmeadow and constantly suffering from injury. He is now a commercial property developer.
Manager Andy Hessenthaler snapped up the left-back in December 2010 after Joe Martin had been released by Blackpool as a young prospective full-back at just the age of 21 years-old. He struggled at first but shortly became one of the first names on the team sheet.
Martin made over 160 appearances during his four and a half year stint at Priestfield, and also scored a few crackers during his time at Gillingham. The 27 year-old scored two goals during the 2012/13 campaign, which included a wonder-strike at home to Burton Albion in a 4-1 victory and a winner at Adams Park against Wycombe Wanderers.
Joe Martin was a vital member of the squad that season having played a part in 41 games. After being released by Justin Edinburgh at the end of the 2014/15 campaign, the defender signed for Millwall on a one-year deal but extended his contract during the summer at the London club, where he currently still plays. Martin played in his side’s defeat to Barnsley in the League One Play-Off Final earlier this year.
Jack Payne is a graduate of the famous Gillingham youth academy, having made his debut for the Kent club in a League Two match against Chester City in October 2008. After impressive performances the midfielder signed an eighteenth month contract just a few weeks later. The 24 year-old picked up the Gills’ Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2008/09 season as a reward for his fine displays.
He went onto become a present in the Priestfield midfield during the 2012/13 season, making 21 appearances in the first part of the season and scoring two goals. Although his time at Gillingham will be marked for the goal from 40 yards out in the FA Cup at AFC Bournemouth, which ended 3-3 before the Gills won the replay. Unfortunately, Payne fell out with boss Martin Allen and the defensive midfielder was sold by the club to Peterborough United in January 2013, half way through that promotion campaign. He was ultimately replaced by Anton Robinson, who signed on loan from Huddersfield Town.
Having been named captain at the Posh, he fell down the pecking order at London Road. His time there included a loan spell at Leyton Orient last season before joining League Two side Blackpool in the summer, his debut was ruined by being sent off at home to Plymouth Argyle towards the end of August.
With the Gillingham team seemingly lacking pace, Allen brought in pacey winger Myles Weston in the summer of 2012 from Brentford and on his debut scored in a 3-1 victory at home to Bradford City.
During the 2012/13 season Weston went onto to be an ever-present in the Gills’ starting eleven with his pace being a large influence on the success of the team throughout that year. He played in 40 games over the course of that campaign and contributed with eight goals to help the club gain promotion to League One.
His second season wasn’t as successful, with the sacking of Allen and new manager Peter Taylor wasn’t a big fan of Myles Weston, he was released by the Gills at the end of the 2013/14 season and was swiftly persuaded to join Southend United. Although, the 28 year-old was released by the Shrimpers in the summer and now plays for Wycombe but has struggled for game time at the League Two club.
Whelpdale was no stranger to the surroundings when he signed for Gillingham on a permanent basis in July 2011 after spending a month on loan at the club the previous season, and had scored three goals in four games during that spell.
The winger was one of the side’s stand-out performers during the promotion year of 2012/13 having made 46 appearances and hardly put a foot wrong. Chris Whelpdale scored seven goals in that campaign and was very disciplined after picking up just two yellow cards during the course of that season. He failed to make the same sort of impact at Gillingham the following season, but despite being offered a deal at the club, he rejected the offer an subsequently signed for League Two outfit Stevenage.
When AFC Wimbledon gained promotion to League One for the very first time last year, they went in for the services of Whelpdale and he now plays for the Kingsmeadow side. He has played a part of 15 matches this season, with just one goal – that came in a 3-2 defeat to Peterborough United in the EFL Cup.
With the need of signing a striker who brought experience to the team, along with goals, Martin Allen made no mistake when he agreed a deal to sign veteran forward Deon Burton on a one-year contract. The Jamaica arrived at the Gills having played for eleven previous clubs from the Football League, although he did join after a couple of years playing in Azerbaijan.
Burton scored his first goal for Gillingham in a 2-1 away victory to Dagenham & Redbridge and was firmly a favourite as the campaign progressed. He ended the 2012/13 season on 13 goals, and two of them came against his former employer Rotherham United and amusingly held his hands to ears. The now 40 year-old made forty appearances throughout the course of that season but because of his age was not offered a new contract in the summer of 2013 and had been released.
The striker went onto to play for Scunthorpe United but after a serious injury was let go by the Irons in January 2015 before signing for non-league side Eastleigh. He spent only a few months there before joining Brackley Town, and ended last season at Worcester City – where he announced his retirement from playing football. Deon Burton often appears on television now as a pundit.
Kedwell left AFC Wimbledon to sign for Martin Allen’s Gillingham having scored the winning penalty in the Conference Play-Off Final to gain promotion to the Football League for the very first time. We reportedly agreed a £60,000 fee for the services of the striker but was Gillingham-born so it came to no surprise why he would leave the Dons for Kent.
Danny Kedwell’s first season saw him bag 14 goals in all competitions with 12 coming in the League, but it was the promotion campaign of 2012/13 where he will be remembered for years to come. That season he hit the net on sixteen occasions, which saw him become the club’s top goal scorer, and scored the goal which actually won promotion in the 1-0 win at Priestfield to Torquay United.
After 120 appearances for the Gills, Kedwell was sold in January 2015 to Conference Premier side Ebbsfleet United, based in Gravesend, but failed to keep them up as they suffered relegation to the south division. He also couldn’t help his team go straight back up after losing to Maidstone United in the Play-Off at the end of last season. The 33 year-old still plays for Ebbsfleet, although he hasn’t played a single game so far this campaign.
I can’t finish this without mentioning some other plays who had a massive influence in the memorable promotion season. Midfielder Steve Gregory was rather impressive, having joined in January 2013, but failed to make the same impact the following year. Along with Lewis Montrose, who did get pushed out of the team slightly.