Gaffer | "Big challenges ahead"

Gaffer frustrated by not being able to complete the season, but now preparing for big challenges.

Manager Steve Evans says the curtailment of the League 1 season was possibly the only conclusion available due to the lack of time remaining to fulfil all remaining league fixtures, with clubs now facing some big challenges.

The EFL announced last week that an overwhelming majority had voted to finish the season with immediate effect, with a points per game system implemented to determine final league positions. Gillingham therefore ended the season in 10th place.

The Manager was desperate to get playing again, but felt time had run out with player contracts set to expire, and no governing body seemingly prepared to pay for the testing required to enable players to return to full-time training. 

Speaking to the club’s official YouTube page Steve said:  “I think considering how far the timescales got to, we couldn’t have finished the season, so it would have been the only conclusion we could have come to at this stage.

“For many weeks, a month or two, myself and the Chairman desperately wanted the season to continue. We wanted to play the nine games; Fleetwood was our next game at home and had we beaten them we would have been six or seven points off the play-off group with a very attractive run-in which we fancied.

“Coventry were in amongst that but we thought they may have already been promoted by then. From that point of view we fancied it. I did, our Chairman did. We just needed someone to help fund what was going to be a huge loss for each individual club [the testing].

“As time went on there has been a couple of big losers in the decision, one winner, and some rightful decisions made. Coventry City being Champions is completely worthwhile; they were the best team in the league, no-one could dispute it and if they do they haven’t watched a lot of League 1. Mark Robins has done a terrific job, as he does, and put a really good team together.

“The second team getting automatic promotion is Rotherham – I have a brilliant relationship with the Millers fans and the Chairman Tony Stewart.

“He’s a good guy, he’s fortunate because five or six teams were on their shirt tails but they weren’t fortunate in the sense that they had a few more points than everyone else, so they get promoted, and good luck to them.  I’ll look forward to seeing Warney [Paul Warne] having more success in the Championship and they deserve to be there with their Stadium and everything else.

“There are two big losers for me – one being Peterborough United, my old club. A brilliant team, nine games left with five at home and four of them were against teams in the bottom half of the table which they normally swept away at London Road. From that point of view I could see all the reasons why they were really disappointed because they probably thought of automatics, never mind the play-offs, but you are where you are, so they miss out.

“The other one is Tranmere, of course. They are very unfortunate, but it is what it is. They had just won their last three away games, they strengthened significantly in January and Micky Mellon’s teams have always come at the end. If they are in the mix at the end they are normally successful.

“Good support up there aswell, they get behind their team and I think they would have comfortably survived, and yet they make the drop into League 2 which is not where they should be going, so they are the losers. Winners and losers, but there always is in this mad game of Football.”

The Manager was asked whether added financial restrictions, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to create his biggest challenge in Football management.

He said: “Yes, I think there will be challenges for everyone. It’s not just Football, post COVID, whatever world we come out to, whether you work as an electrician, in a pub or factory, these are unprecedented times.

“Certainly in Leagues 1 and 2 the income levels will be less, the Championship will be less and the Premier League will be protected. It is the best Football League in the world; that will get protected.

“There probably may not be the bigger money in Leagues 1 and 2, with no fans in the ground. I’m not sure how true this is but it strikes me that it will have more of an impact on the likes of Sunderland, Portsmouth and Ipswich who have anything from 16,000 up to 35,000 [at Sunderland] regularly. It will have an impact not having that revenue and a severe cost base still to be paid out. Fortunately those clubs have decent, wealthy owners.”