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Gaffer at the Weekend

Gills boss reflects on Wigan victory.

20 September 2020


Gaffer at the Weekend

Gills boss reflects on Wigan victory.

20 September 2020

Steve Evans delivers his weekly assessment.

Q: You had a lot of time on the journey back to Kent to evaluate the performance at Wigan. What specifically pleased you about the display?

A1: This is a very young team, very possibly by far the youngest in the EFL. There is a real energy, freshness and love of training and playing football, this was very evident and pleases me the most.

There is no better feeling than a journey home on the team coach after a win with a team of teenagers and youths who are happy.


Q: Options were limited in terms of personnel. With Stuart O’Keefe and Kyle Dempsey out were you forced to change shape or would you have set up in the same way regardless?

A2: We had a couple of systems in mind and that would have changed the starting team. 

As you can see our selection options are limited and we couldn’t fill the substitute’s bench, but the lads on it could all equally start so we are all good.


Q: We struck back immediately after going 1-0 down. How crucial was our equaliser both in terms of our own game plan and deflating the opposition, thereby shifting momentum?

A3: As I said last week goals change games. After Jordan Graham equalised we bossed the game for long spells and consider that to last week when we missed a big chance a minute after the visitors led.

Our lads are young, enthusiastic and are encouraged to play without fear, but at the same time accepting responsibility.


Q: I thought Eccles, Mellis and Robertson were superb in midfield. For large parts they controlled proceedings in the centre of the pitch. Two of them are very young; does it ever surprise you when players with comparatively less experience play so well?

A4: Those three players are very talented and play off each other’s game.

Scott Robertson is getting better every day, will go back and play regularly for Glasgow Celtic when he learns his trade, Josh Eccles is destined to play higher with experience and Jacob Mellis I love when he plays with that energy.


Q: Vadaine Oliver seemed to win everything in the air. With him up top and able to win first balls is it then down to Coyle, Graham, Mellis etc to win the second balls? 

A5: In that formation, in many ways it’s about getting the three of them on the ball in the final third. We have a number of players who can do those roles and also play other worked on systems.

We need to continue to work hard on the training ground, this is a new and very young group and learning is massively important to how we will do over a season.


Q: Was there anything, performance wise, you were not so happy with?

A6: Our defending was sloppy at times. In fairness the lads are new together and a few are working extra hard to deliver what we know they are capable of.

We will get better, practice and practice is the ingredient needed and we are fortunate in that they love the training ground.


Q: Trae Coyle bagged his first league goal. How pleased were you for him?

A7: He is a smashing lad and his ability at times is scary.

We are working with him to adapt his game slightly from what he did at the Arsenal, but he is putting the work in.

Wherever he plays in the future he will always remember his first ever league goal.

This boy can be magical but only if he does the ugly side of the game, one side is not enough in the modern game.


Q: Is that performance at Wigan the benchmark now in terms of standards set?

A8: It is for now but believe me there is so much more to come from this group and I cannot wait to see Kyle Dempsey in it too.

Matty Willock has so much to offer and I can also see him involved and not forgetting young Henry Woods who has made significant progress.

More to come from these lads!


Q: I know you are trying to add to the group. How many more bodies, ideally, do you need to complete the squad?

A9: We need a minimum of two more, perhaps three, but let us see how we get on.

We are light in numbers but heavy in quality, we have some really talented boys here.


Q: It's Stoke next, on Wednesday night. Although you are not in a position to change all XI will you rest as many as you can considering the quick turnaround you have for Blackpool?

A10: We will make plenty of changes. I do not hide from the fact that Blackpool next Saturday is my priority. They have spent the most money this summer excluding Darragh MacAnthony at Posh who, in fairness to him, always spends big money in search of success.


Q: Yesterday’s match referee, and I think on the whole you felt he had a good game, was actually on the NHS frontline a few months ago as part of the team to help fight COVID, which some people may not be aware of?

A11: The referee of course we know, but I learned only yesterday of the job he does.

He had a good game yesterday, he let it flow and to later learn what he does for his main living had me humbled.

This country needs the NHS and this COVID-19 virus has demonstrated that clearly to everyone.


Q12: I know you are grateful to all key workers but it shows everyone is very much doing their bit, where possible, to help overcome the virus which, fingers crossed, doesn't strike for a second time?

A12: It goes without saying that all the key workers deserve enormous respect and of course we are forever in their debt. 

We need to respect the rules set out by the government and follow them so we can give ourselves all enough time until a vaccine is found. 

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