Gills duo sit down to discuss pre-season.
The serious business of pre-season training has started at ME7 and the Gills squad are working hard to prepare for the physical demands of what promises to be one of the most challenging Sky Bet League One seasons in history.
Running that extra yard, stretching for that last-ditch tackle, or wrestling free from your marker to score can be the difference between three points and none, so the Gillingham coaching staff are leaving nothing to chance as they put the players through their paces in the gym and on the training pitches.
Engine room operators Kyle Dempsey and Alex MacDonald took a breather from yet another unforgiving fitness session to update fans on what life is like at MEMS Priestfield Stadium before the season kicks off.
Pleased to be back?
Kyle: It’s great to be back with the lads. I think after the year we had last year, with games every Saturday then Tuesday, it was nice to get a break. It has been nice to spend a bit of time with family and friends, but now I am just eager to get back to it.
Macca: I’m itching to get back, big time! There is only so many days you can be away from football and the lads when you have been involved in football for the period of time that I have. I can’t wait to see the lads again. We are on day two now and it has certainly be entertaining so far.
Is it important to stay in shape during the off-season?
Kyle: Gone are the days when I was 18 or 19 and you do nothing for two months. In the modern day game now you just can’t do that. You can’t afford to be two or three months behind. Looking at the group and the lads so far, you can see that everyone has kept themselves ticking over and they are fit and raring to go.
Macca: I totally agree. You don’t want to be coming in and finding yourself at the back of the pack. You want to be nice and fit and just give yourself that platform to build on.
Who is difficult to keep up with?
Kyle: Stu (Stuart O’Keefe). I’ve still not seen him breathing heavily, not even once. Me and Macca were running in his group yesterday and he must be one of the fittest blokes in football. He just strides along and nothing really fazes him.
Macca: Yes, he is a really fit man. Stu is the one to try and keep up with. I’ve been impressed with quite a few of them; young Harvey (Lintott) has come back and he is in really good shape. He is a really strong boy and a very strong runner.
The one that stands out though is Stu. I was trying to keep up with him yesterday and was just a little behind him. I was absolutely blowing but, looking at him, it looks like he is doing nothing, he’s not even breathing heavily.
And in the gym, who is the person to watch?
Macca: I’ll tell you who not to watch. Akinde! He’s a big boy and he knows what he is doing. It was our first day in there today and we had a tough session. It is another part of fitness in this modern day. If you go back to when I first started, the gym side of things was pretty much non-existent, but now it is a massive part of pre-season.
How have the new lads settled in?
Kyle: They have settled in great. We have such a good set of lads. I touched on it a number of times last year that we have such a tight-knit group. The new lads have settled in straight away and are sure to make a big impact for us.
Macca: When you walk through the door at this club, you are one of us straight away. We have a very good group and we are very welcoming. The dressing room is full of good characters and good experience. Whenever a new player comes in, we like to make them feel welcome from day one. It was no different when I joined or Kyle joined. We were made to feel very welcome and we want that for all the additions who walk in the building.
Lincoln City at home in the first game. It’s a tricky opener for the season.
Kyle: If you look at the league table this year, there are a lot of good teams. So it’s going to be a challenging year. But that’s what you want, you want to play against the best teams. We just need to give ourselves a good platform in pre-season, get some good results and then take each game as it comes.
Macca: It’s a challenging year but one we are looking forward to. Last year, I think a lot of people couldn’t see us getting to where we got to. We gave ourselves a chance. We are looking to do the same again this year. We have kept the core of the squad together; we have lost a few but I’m sure the Gaffer is working really hard to try and replace them. If we play the way we know we can play then we are capable of surprising a few people this year.
Kyle: We are looking to attack the season.