Gills midfielder says the squad is determined to put things right on Saturday, but is well aware the threats Rochdale will pose.
The busy football schedule at Christmas is a beloved feature for fans around the country, but for Gills’ energetic midfielder Alex MacDonald it will be “business as usual.”
The versatile MacDonald, who enjoyed a successful spell under Steve Evans at Mansfield, hopes to shake off Gills’ last two defeats and spearhead a charge back up the table as the year draws to a close.
MacDonald spoke candidly to the local press ahead of Gillingham’s Sky Bet League One trip to Rochdale as he previewed the game, discussed what it takes to put a promotion run together, and revealed what life is like for a professional footballer at Christmas.
Reflecting on the Accrington defeat
“Whenever you come away from a defeat and you leave the stadium you are still emotionally attached to the game, still thinking about all the bad things. When you sit down and watch the game back, like I have, the second half was pleasing, it was much more like us.
“If we tidy up those defensive mistakes that seem to be costing us and we keep morale high and keep positive in the camp, if we put in the performances and work as hard as we are doing then it will turn.”
The management team
“The Manager and Paul Raynor are all-action on the sidelines; they don’t change for anybody, no matter who you are coming up against.
“Before games, at half time and after games they are no different. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, are passionate and they want to do well. They are winners and that is what they are trying to instil in the team.”
“We were coming off the back of five great results (before the previous two defeats) and we were on a great run of form in the league. We have to go back to what we had been doing and what makes us successful. We know what it takes and we have the right characters and mentality to do it. We have the right manager to make sure that we are working hard.
“We have the experience; we’ve done it already this season. The only way to put it all right is to work hard and get back on that training ground.”
Utilising the squad
“With everything that has come up and the amount of games we are playing, it has been relentless. I can’t remember how many weeks now we have been playing Saturday then Tuesday.
“The squad has to be used. The continuity of the starting eleven has not been there as much as we would have liked because of injuries and form. The squad know that at any point, anyone can be called upon. The manager is not afraid to use his squad.
“We have been hit with injuries to key players, so it has been tough. It’s hard, but that is what the squad is there for.
“We are upbeat and we are positive. We are taking each game as it comes and fingers crossed, if we keep working hard, we will get the results. We need to step up to the plate and put in some big performances.”
Going on a run
“If we knew all the ingredients to getting in the play-offs we would be very wealthy but any successful teams and the promotion teams I have been in have all always kept working hard and never took their foot off the gas. They have never got complacent. We have got that here. The lads are putting in a lot of work. It’s all about keeping your head down, working hard and sticking to who you are.
“We want to keep ourselves in or around and within touching distance of the play-offs. We need to go on a run of good results with good performances to put us in the place that we ultimately want to be.”
Rochdale on Saturday
“We expect a tough game. The league this year is tough, there are a lot of good teams in there. We are coming up against another good team again on Saturday in Rochdale.
“They have got a philosophy with their way of playing. They have been hit and miss in terms of results, but the way that they play is very good. They play great football and from back to front it is all about keeping possession. They had a very impressive result on Tuesday night (defeating Wigan 5-0 away from home).
“We are well aware of what Rochdale are going to bring to the table. We are also well aware that when we are ‘on it’ we can match anyone is this division.
“We are a wounded animal at the minute and there is a real grit and determination in the camp.”
The festive football season
“Football at Christmas is a fantastic time for everyone but as a footballer you don’t really get to enjoy it like a lot of people. It’s all about spending time with the family but making sure you are doing everything right. There won’t be a lot of pigs in blankets! Christmas is great, but you can’t take your foot off the gas.
“Nothing really changes for me. You still eat pasta on Christmas Eve because you know you have a game coming up. You do try and squeeze a small portion of Christmas dinner in there at some point, whether that be Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day. Christmas cheer for a footballer is a win on Boxing Day!
“It’s very much business as usual for a footballer. It’s great to see the family, but it will be the same old routines that you have leading up to games. Just because it is Christmas time we can’t let that slip. The manager will drill home that he won’t want that to slip as well.
“A lot of successful teams go under the radar at Christmas time. It is massive because a lot of teams slip up around this period. If you can do well it can really impact where you are in the table. You want to go in to the New Year off the back of some positive results after a good festive period."