It has taken less than 48 hours for Gills chairman Paul Scally to sought out a new replacement for Justin Edinburgh as the club announces the return of Ady Pennock and Steve Lovell, along with Jamie Day. The three are set to position themselves as a trio to make up the coaching team at Priestfield with each being responsible for all footballing activities on and off the pitch.
Scally has given the new personnel until the end of the season to prove their worth and get Gillingham out of the current struggle in which they currently lie.
Edinburgh had his contracted ultimately terminated on Tuesday following an atrocious home defeat to Oxford United the previous day. Since then a number of potential candidates were put in the mix to become Justin’s successor; including ex-Birmingham City man Gary Rowett, former Rotherham United boss Kenny Jackett and Steve Cotterill being mentioned once or twice.
Of course, Pennock needs no initiation at the Gills having spent a triumphant seven year spell at the club between 1996 and 2003, when he embraced promotion to the first division after becoming victorious in the 2000 Play-Off final against Wigan Athletic, albeit scoring an own goal. Overall, the defender made comprised 168 appearances in a Gillingham shirt, the most he made at any team throughout his career. Ady, or Adrian, has lingered in non-league football since retiring as a player. Initially beginning his managerial career at Welling United, he then went on to work under Tony Pulis at Stoke City prior to his appointment as boss at Forest Green Rovers. He was sacked there in the 2015/16 campaign and reportedly has been working alongside Jamie Day back at Welling over the last couple of months.
Steve Lovell is another individual who knows his way around the Kent side, with this set to be the 56 year-old’s third stint at the Gills. The Welshman spent five years at Priestfield, lasting from 1987 to 1992, racking up 233 games as a Gillingham striker and scored on 94 occasions. He was originally a member of the ‘Gang of Four’ which temporary took charge following the sacking of Peter Taylor in 2015, and became a fitness coach after Justin Edinburgh arrived but Lovell opted to leave last summer and subsequently became assistant manager at National League outfit Bromley.
Day is more of an unfamiliar name for a number of Gills fans. He spent most of his playing time in the lower leagues of the English pyramid but never once appeared, or came close to, being a player at Gillingham. Jamie Day’s managerial experience includes time at Ebbsfleet United, Braintree Town and Welling United. Despite rumours that Andy Hessenthaler may be have been declared as Director of Football, the legend will not be making a fourth return to the club.
When the news of Pennock being named head coach became increasingly likely, I was more than underwhelmed, just like a large proportion of supporters. It may have been a little ambitious going for a calibre such as Gary Rowett, but there are plenty of managers out there who aren’t in a job at the moment – Kenny Jackett, Steve Cotterill, Tony Mowbray are just a few.
It’s quite obvious that finances are tight, and that’s understandable considering Paul Scally has just had to compensate Edinburgh for terminating his contract and spending an abundance in the summer, stating it as the biggest transfer budget ever at Gillingham. So the fact we have gone for the cheap option doesn’t surprise me the slightest, I was just in hope we wouldn’t go for anyone who’s had a previous association with the Gills. Scally has gone for ex-players and managers before; Peter Taylor and ‘Hessy’ the most notable. I suppose the return of Lovell most supporters will be ecstatic about.
Despite the underwhelming announcement of the new coaching team, which may be a little different to the assumption of a manager like most teams tend to do, my suggestion is we back the new set-up and give them our full support in their attempt to revive our diminishing season. On the positive, the chairman went for coaches who clearly care about the club which is better than the alternative of going for someone who has absolutely no clue of Gillingham’s past or present.
Pennock, the main man I am assuming, still has sufficient time of this transfer window to bring in new players. Along with that, they are going to have a full week of getting to see what the squad is capable of in training ahead of the trip north to Oldham Athletic on Saturday 14th January. No disrespect to Josh Wright, but he’s not captain material so I am confident that the armband may be handed to someone else, although the current team is lacking many leaders – something which could be improved upon over the next month. The best that can be done I think is to steer us away from the looming relegation zone and make it comfortable towards the end of the season.