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9 July 2012

Gills boss plans to hit the ground running

New Gillingham manager Martin Allen says he is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, but admits some changes do need to be made if the club are to improve on last season's league position.

Allen was unveiled as manager in a press conference on Thursday and spent the day meeting his staff and players as the club gears up for a new season.

Before his unveiling to the media he gave his first exclusive interview to the club's official website, and said he was excited by the thought of a new season in a new role.

He said: "It's been a busy couple of days. I got a phone call from the Chairman 48 hours ago so I've been chatting for a couple of days with him and it's exciting times.

"It's just before pre-season; I've met the players at lunchtime and they are going off to train now which is a bit of a surprise and a shock to them so we are hitting the ground running quite literally and I'm looking forward to it."

Allen was asked what it was about the club that made him want to work as Gills boss, and he says its ambition and determination to move forward was an influential factor behind his decision.

He said: "As a football manager you want to work, number one. I don't do not working very well to be honest and this club has got potential.

"I watched us play last year in the cup away at Leyton Orient and we outplayed a first division team.

"The supporters over the far side from where I was sitting in the prawn sandwich lot were really loud, got behind the players and easily out sung the orient supporters and you just sensed that day that something good was happening.

"They had one little bad run in the middle which stopped them getting higher in the league so when the opportunity came here it was the sort of thing you thrive on.

"Over 5,000 come watching in division two, the chairman is a pretty ambitious bloke. He doesn't like hanging around here too long I think so all in all it should be good."

Allen was presented a very different challenge at the back end of last season when he had just three games to save Barnet from relegation, but is pleased he now has a chance to gain promotion - something he has never achieved during his time as a manager.

He said: "All the jobs I get are always when the club or the team is not doing very well. A couple of years ago Notts County were doomed in relegation. They had eight straight defeats but its tinkering really rather than massive change.

"It's little bits and pieces that need to be added and there is no doubt about it we need to improve the spine of the team which is what I've been chatting to Andy Hessenthaler and the chairman about.

"The plans are already in place and we are getting together a list of targets and that's really good for me because Andy is going to take that responsibility now.

"He can sift through the players, put them in front of me and then go off and do the jobs with the agents which for me as a manger is going to be priceless so that is going to be really helpful.

"Hopefully the Chairman and Andy can bring these players in and create a bit more excitement I suppose because the supporters would probably have wanted a manager earlier in the summer.

"I have never had a promotion, I've always had to fight the fires and keep clubs up. There was one I was really close but we sold our best players - another one we lost in the play-offs so my ambition is to get promotion and that's what it's all about."

Allen said he sympathised with fans who may have wanted an appointment earlier in the summer, but he reassured supporters by saying everything is in hand and staff are aware of what needs to be done.

He said: "They [the fans] would have probably seen clubs signing other players as no one has come here yet so supporters are possibility a little hesitant and not sure what is happening, but the plans are all in place and we're looking to get up and running straight away."

Allen briefly commented on full back Barry Fuller who hasn't played since last September, and he said he will be given chance to prove his fitness until the end of the month.

He said: "I've chatted to Barry Fuller at lunchtime and I suppose he could be classed as a new signing as he hardly played last year.

"I know he loves this club so we will train with him for the rest of the month until his contract finishes and then see how his knee is and how his situation is.

"He looks fit and he looks well so we will see how he is."

The new manager is keen to improve the fitness of his squad, and he set to work right away by sending the players off to training immediately after his meeting with them.

He said: "Not one player last year played 40 games so something isn't quite right there. I've brought in a strength and conditioning sports scientist [James Russell] and he does all of that work.

"I worked with him last year and he is very good. He had another good job lined up but I managed to get him in the last 48 hours to come in and help so he will be starting work with the players in the next five weeks.

"That starts Friday and on Saturday morning when we are training. I have brought in John Schofield who is the First Team Coach and probably Assistant Manager. He has been a fantastic friend to me and is a very good coach and very popular with the players."

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