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Q & A: Transcript

Read what Steve Evans and Paul Raynor had to say in their open Q & A.

6 June 2019

The club's new management team spoke to Gills fans on Tuesday.

SE: “I think it’s no hidden secret that the Chairman tried to bring me in at Mansfield, but the owners up at Mansfield are not just fantastic people, they're also very wealthy. Their message to the Chairman was that no matter what you say, we just aren’t going to let him go. I watched three of Gillingham’s games towards the end of the season and I think people were putting two and two together and coming up with five. But in reality that’s probably why Tomas Holy isn’t here as a friend of mine asked me to do an assessment on Tomas and that assessment was done before the Chairman said that Steve [Lovell] had gone.”

 

Q: The rumours are that the reason you left Peterborough is that your relationship broke down with the players and that they wouldn’t play for you? I would be grateful for your response.

SE: “It’s quite hard to accept that considering that Paul and myself have met up with the majority of that squad and their girlfriends since the season finished. The likes of Maddison and people like Toney, the captain and a raft of them were very supportive. When we lost our job we were in the play-offs and we drew 0-0 at home to Charlton and had we beaten Charlton we would have gone third in the table, so you can understand why we probably felt it was a bit harsh.

I wasn’t very well for about a month afterwards and I think I said this; Paul was better than me and I took it really bad, I probably wanted that job for a long time, but the Chairman was right. The home form in terms of results was pretty poor and our away form was Championship form. We were better than any other club in the league; I think we started with seven or eight straight wins away from home, we were okay at home but as it got to November and December the focus at Peterborough was for promotion; we never hid that and we had fantastic backing from the Chairman and two other guys who put millions in.

The players still speak to us now. I was with the Dembele family two weeks ago in Glasgow when the younger brother made his debut for Glasgow Celtic and the Dembele family invited me up. So, that probably gives you an idea."

 

You’ve signed a player, correct?

SE: “We’ve signed two players; we gave the nod to the Chairman to do Connor Ogilvie just before we broke off and we’ve signed a goalkeeper, Jack Bonham, today from Brentford who was at Bristol Rovers on loan last season. He has been at Brentford for a few years and was on loan at Carlisle and got player of the year. He was outstanding and for Bristol Rovers as well. The player asked to meet today; the terms had been tied up while we were away but we sat with him for two hours and he put pen to paper and signed.”

 

Welcome to the club. You must understand the negative talk. What are you going do to get us all, as fans, together?

SE: “If you go back a few weeks we were considering three opportunities, one in Scotland and two in League One. The third one in the table was Gillingham and it was always going to be the hardest one because we have always wanted to beat Gillingham, like any club. As far as we’re concerned, every club we have gone to from Crawley, Rotherham, Leeds and Mansfield, there’s always been a certain amount of supporters that didn’t want us but I’m telling you they didn’t want us to leave. That’s because we gave everything to the football clubs that we worked for that pays our bills, rents and mortgages and we will never forget that. The next thing we can do is give everything, I’ve already rented a place here and I’ve come away from my family. I’ll see them when I see them.”

 

Q: Looking at Bury and Bolton, there are a lot of clubs below the Premier League that are struggling. Does Gillingham give you a positive outlook?

SE: “When I first met him the Chairman was quite hesitant to say the budget was going to be the same as last season. I think he kept that part until the end! In fact, I think I had signed! With Rotherham we competed with teams like Leeds United and Sheffield United; it’s not always about money. You have to invest every penny properly and you need to have a team that has a never say die attitude and if you ask anyone in the media about my teams home and away they will say that they are relentless.”

 

Q: Paul, you don’t have millions to spend. How important is your role and what is your speciality as a coach?

PR: “It’s just getting that little bit extra, it will be my job and the gaffer’s job to get out on that training ground and bring that tempo that we like to play with and it’s all about getting results. Our job is just to get that little bit more out of the players on the training ground, working very hard and the Chairman wants to see those players improving. That’ll ultimately be my job, along with the Gaffer.”

 

Q: Do we have a transfer budget? If Bradley Dack is sold will you have access to a sell on fee for transfers?

SE: “You don’t actually get a separate transfer budget, what you have is a total budget. It’s then your responsibility as a manager to go the Chairman; hypothetically if your budget is a pound, you’ve got to go the Chairman and justify why he should spend 20 pence of that pound on one hit for a footballer. Most transfer fees these days are never paid in full, that can be paid over two, three, four or in some cases in the Premier League, ten years. It just depends what the strategy of the club is. In regards to Bradley Dack; me and the Chairman don’t know what the situation is up there and if he does go the money will be added to the budget.”

 

Q: We are so easy to play against at home. What will you do to make us harder at home?

PR:  “The home form is absolutely crucial; I know Gillingham’s last year wasn’t that great, as was Peterborough as we just touched upon. However, it’s about intensity. It’s about teams coming to Gillingham and being worried about how we are going to play and the atmosphere and how hostile it is. We’ve brought teams down to Gillingham in the past and in the week coming up to that we knew what we were going to get, a hostile atmosphere.”

SE: “I’d usually bring a crash helmet! That’s just for getting off the coach!”

PR: “It was a tough place to come and get a result. As I say, it’s because you guys made it hostile because you back your team and we need to get you guys out of your seats and get you excited. We do play a high pressing game, I know it’s easy to say that, it’ s the new in thing, but we have always played a high pressing game from the front. I will be screaming from the touchline to get our back four that little bit higher to press our midfield. Hopefully it will be enjoyable for you guys to watch. You won’t be seeing too many teams playing out from the back and trying to start moves from the back; we will try and stop that and make it a real fight.”

SE: “I think you made a real valid point about teams playing straight through you. When we came here with Posh, we thought we could get right through you. Whether we could get through the back four and Holy was a separate question, but we certainly felt that we could get through the middle of the park and as it turned out, we did. That’ll be a big focus. If things work out, by next Monday or Tuesday, you will be seeing some good players arriving in that department.”

 

Q: As the Manager you must be champing at the bit to get started?

SE: “I think we’ve been fortunate that we have worked for some very good Chairman at some good clubs and the things that they emphasise is effort and commitment. You need a team to play with a real tenacity and flair and you need to entertain the supporters as well as win. You need to play in a fashion that they enjoy watching. You have to give home supporters the type of performance and win games because that’s what brings them in. Tom and the Chairman are working on some fantastic initiatives, but winning football matches brings supporters in.”

 

Q: Is there an outstanding team; do you think you will be competitive next season?

PR: “There are some outstanding teams; obviously finance can dictate that to some extent, but finance isn’t everything, it’s about putting that team on the pitch with the right characteristics and coaching in the right way. What you will see on that pitch is that character, passion and the drive. We have been winners wherever we’ve been. We’re not everyone’s cup of tea. You’ve probably seen us shouting on the touchline and seen our antics, but that’s what we are. We kick every ball, we head every ball.”

SE: “It’s not based on budgets, if it were then Portsmouth and Sunderland would have been promoted. Doncaster made the play-offs with a bottom half of the table budget, that’s a fact, so the reality is, is that it’s all about the players you put together and how you want them as a team.”

 

Q: What assurances can you give us that you will change your antics to protect the club’s reputation?

SE: “I can remember when I was at Leeds United and we were playing Fulham at Craven Cottage and it was my first ever game for Leeds United, and we were 1-0 down at half-time. The referee was coming up the tunnel and he was a good referee, and as he come up the tunnel I’m about to tell him ‘you’re not the reason we are losing.’ What came out my mouth got me a three game ban!

Back to the question, the Chairman spoke very wisely and said that we need to control it and we need to contain it. If it’s settled and rather irregular then people will love it, when it's regular then people get fed up of it. We’re going to try our level best to make sure that we channel that.”

PR: “Everyone loves watching Jurgen Klopp jumping around on the touchline and we are the same; we are just as passionate. Hopefully we can be as successful as he is and with you guys behind us, I’m sure you will be jumping up with us.”

 

Q: How will you replace Tom Eaves?

SE: “What happens is, is that you sign a set of players to score your goals. When Tom Eaves signed for Gillingham, I don’t think anyone expected him to score 40 goals in two seasons. We met a kid yesterday and the Chairman has a further meeting with him and his representatives on Monday. He’s a goal scorer so we will see where it goes. It’s not just one. We have the boy Hanlan and we expect to add three more strikers with him. Certainly the two or three of them are goal scorers. One’s played international football at a lesser level than first team and he is away in Toulon. We are waiting for that tournament to finish so we can chat to him.”

 

Q: How much research have you been doing looking towards the next role?

SE: “I was very fortunate. When we came out in January; between then and the end of the season you can start going to places like Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and Glasgow Celtic. We don’t have money of those clubs, but you can certainly have the determination to get to those standards.”

 

Q: Are we going to utilise youth and play attacking football?

PR: “Obviously Mark Patterson staying was a big thing for us, he has obviously worked with the youth team and throughout the academy and knows these players very well. We’ve had a number of chats with Mark and he’s excited about some of the young guys so they will all get opportunities. Pre-season is going to be a massive getting to know you period and we have seen some videos, but we will use Mark’s experience and knowledge largely and he’s very excited about what’s coming through as well. We would love to have some younger players in our squad.”

SE “That’s where you have to move into the city; I did it at Leeds, I did it when I went to Rotherham and Paul will tell you; it’s not unusual for me on a Sunday to be watching the under 9’s, 14’s, under 16’s and you just put names into your head. When you get to the 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds it’s absolutely essential that you know what they’re about because at any given time you’ll want to add them to your group. The best example I can give you is at Leeds United, we went to and watched the 23’s play on a Tuesday afternoon. I came back over and I said I don’t know why Sam Byran and Louis Cook are not in the first team. The same as Ronaldo Vieira, we found him playing with Tadcaster. If they’re young and good enough, they will come into the first team. But they have to be good enough, that’s the overwhelming factor. After Patto telling us; we have four or five gifted youngsters that are capable of coming in and training with us.”

 

Where do you feel we need to improve?

PR: “We’re looking at all positions, we need to be better all over the field. You made a great point about Tom Eaves, goals are essential and if you want to win games we will need to score lots of goals. We do play attacking football, so that is a massive priority. The gaffer’s touched on that, we have already spoken to a proven goal scorer. A young goal scorer that will hopefully fill those categories, but we need to improve all over. We need competition for places. Ideally, we can have two players in each position to make them push each other and get the best out of each other. To answer your question, we need to improve all round.”

SE: “When we were taking the Gillingham job, we just took the assumption that if they were all there, then how do we improve that team if we were going to play against them? How do we beat that team and keep the better players. We’re trying to put a real emphasis on looking at all of it, but there are key areas. The middle of the park we thought wasn’t good enough, we felt Eaves and Hanlan played really well together. We felt sorry for Max [Ehmer] and Connor [Ogilvie] at the end because teams just got at them willy nilly and we knew that can’t be right. We thought that ourselves when he played against them.”

 

Q: Where will Ogilvie play next season?

SE: “We have the option to play him as a left sided centre back. I don’t think you’ll see him many times at left back.”

 

What sized squad are you looking to have?

SE: “I think in an ideal world the first team has got to be 20 or 21. I know enough managers that can help us top it up with very gifted young men and if they’re good enough, they play. We know that we can top up with two or three additional bodies near the deadline day. We’re probably going with a squad with 20, 21.”

Why are you banned for four games?

SE: “I had a pop at the referee when Posh lost at Luton after a sending off and I went up to the FA and they gave me a one match ban. A week later the League Managers’ Association that represent you called me up and said that they’ve appealed it. So the FA’s appealed to the FA with my sentence as I got one match. They took the ban up to four games, so we’re on the train home... me and a lady called Lyndsey Gordon, who’s the LMA lawyer, and I asked ‘how many times have the FA appealed a sentence against a manager to the FA?’ She goes `two` and I asked `who’s the other one?` and she goes ‘Mourinho; they don’t like him either!’

Paul will tell you, I started 95% of the games upstairs (at Peterborough) as you see a much better game. I think supporters know that; you see a much better game, but us managers can’t help ourselves. We still think we should be down there shouting, but reality is you do see better. If it starts as well as it did at Peterborough then I will be up there for much longer than four games.”

 

Q: What are your expectations for this season?

SE: “I think we’ve got to be objective and say we want to be in the play-offs. We know it’s going to be tough. If you look at Rotherham they’ll be strong. I had dinner with their Chairman a couple of weeks ago, he’s a personal friend for life. You’d expect Portsmouth and Sunderland and Peterborough to be very strong, they’ve made some decent signings. The usual ones will be particularly strong. What you find in League One is that it’s a very fine line to being mid-table and being in near the top six and a it’s very fine line to being mid-table to being fighting with two or three games to go. We don’t kid ourselves, we haven’t come to Gillingham Football Club to be mid-table; I could’ve stayed at home every night and come in two days a week at another club. We’ve come here to be serious at it. We need all the support from the Chairman. I was away in Turkey for a week; I don’t know what my phone bill is, every day I was phoning him to get the keeper signed. Today we did it and he did it with a smile! We came to make it a successful season. The answer is, is if we get in the play-offs then we’ve only been in play-offs once and we got promoted.”

 

Q: What is the single most important factor to a successful football team?

PR: “It’s being a team. It’s about being together and putting what we do on that training ground out onto the field. You need a team ethic. I spoke about it, our teams have always had tempo and are dynamic. We have got energy and a real togetherness and that’s what we want to bring, I think a real togetherness is massive.”

SE: “I’ll give you an example from Peterborough in Marcus Maddison. He is simply a genius with the football, but he wouldn’t run back. So at the start of the season he said `I’m not going to run back or I’m not going to play`. So he trained with the kids for eight weeks. We win nine out of 12 games or something and we then brought him back in and that’s why he was simply stunning last season. He now does it at both ends of the pitch and should be top end of the Championship without a shadow of a doubt.”

 

What is your assessment of the midfield here at the moment and current contracted players?

SE: “I don’t think it’s any secret that it needs improving, there’s 14 contracted players and I had three lads in today to say they don’t fit as part of my plans, but I can’t say who they are publicly as they need to share with family etc. It doesn’t mean that they won’t be professional and come in and start pre-season; it means that we will sign players in their position and it will be difficult for them to play for us given who we’re going to sign and our judgement. We’ve done it in a very professional basis and every one of the lads thanked us for our honesty. They found it refreshing that we sat there and we said it very early and not July, August time giving them no chance to play. If they decide to come back and fight then that’s their decision.”

 

Q: There’s been a lack of animation on the sidelines since Andy Hessenthaler. One of the things that will get the Rainham End behind you is your animation and I’d like to see you keep doing that. Do some players sometimes need a kick?

SE: “If you talk about my recent club at Peterborough there were some geniuses in our team for that level with the likes of Dembele. You couldn’t shout at them, if you shouted at Dembs, you lost him. You learn as a manager very quickly who can take it and who can’t because it takes different things to spark people. If I went into the dressing room to Tafazoli and said ‘come on big man, you can be better than that’ he’d be worse in the second half.

When we won here with Peterborough against Gills and you brought Tom Eaves off the bench we made a half-time substitution as Yorwerth is a street fighter and we told him to deal with Eaves. He did that and we won the game. It’s horses for courses.”

PR: “When I played the motivation was getting a win bonus so you paid your mortgage and got a holiday with your kids. The motivation is totally different. You can’t shout; you need to get a little bit more out of them; some react in one way and some don’t.

SE: “It’s like talking to your grandchildren. You can’t speak to them like my parents spoke to me. When you sign younger players they have sometimes come straight from school to a very privileged industry and so mentally they don’t know what it’s like to get up at 6am and go to work. It’s very difficult sometimes to manage those kids but you have to find a way."

 

Q: We lack leaders at Gills and have done for a number of seasons. We had loads in the Championship; are you looking at leaders all over the park?

SE: “I think an example I can give you is at Rotherham. When we were at Rotherham we had people like Arnason, Morgan, Agard, and Revell. Every half-time they wanted to fight each other and it was the easiest job in the world. We would tell them to sit down; calm down, leave it and they were just leaders and demanding more from each other.”

PR: “It’s leaders, characters; whatever you want to call them, it’s people that’ll drag their team-mates along with them. You do need that. It’s not always going to be experienced guys, some younger ones have big characters as well and they’re winners. We certainly need those.”

SE: “We brought Gabby in today for a chat and was talking to Gabby. Gabby was in a brilliant Peterborough team a few years back with Mackail-Smith and Boyd. I said to him what was the difference between playing there than playing here and he would say that if you won two games at Gillingham then lose the next week, people would think don’t worry about it as we won two, three weeks ago. The demands of Darren Ferguson, because he was the manager, the demands from the past two games don’t exist anymore, they’re gone. The demands and standards are set on this game. That’s why some players think that we are hard, because we love winning, we always tell the players to enjoy it with their family and have a good night. When we’re back in on a Monday morning that’s completely gone now, the objective is about next week.

 

Q: Who from this season’s team will start the first game of the new season?

PR: “That’s up to them to prove it in pre-season. It’s a clean sheet of paper; new signings, existing players and younger players. It’s up to them to prove that they should be in the team so it’s an exciting period for the players as well, they come in with a fresh sheet of paper to be in the team on the first day.”

SE: “There are some good players there but we’re going to try and bring in players that can help them be better players and we never sign a player and say you’re going to play. We never sign a player and tell him you’re going to play first week of the season; you have to earn it. We’ve signed you because we think you can bring something to the squad and team. We’ve had a chat with all the lads that are staying and they are buzzing. I think they think that we might be trying to do something as a football club. We will take everything up to a better professional level for them.”

 

Q: Players you like in the current squad?

SE: “I’m pleased with Ogilvie; I’m pleased with Ehmer, Barry Fuller. He gets younger! I watched Barry at Wimbledon and I said ‘that’s the end of Barry Fuller. ` When I came to watch Gillingham and Barry was playing, he was outstanding! I said to Rayns, has he got a twin? The boy, Regan Charles-Cook, he’s a real player and has got talent. Mark Byrne has great energy and Listy has real blinding pace, but needs to be consistent. There’s a lot of players we are looking forward to working with. I felt sorry for Max and Connor in the few games I watched towards the end of the season as it seems they were playing against two strikers and three midfielders at times. It looked as if you were waiting to concede, so we need to stop that as well.”

 

 

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