Manager says his experience of play-off pushes will be of benefit as Gills approach their final ten games of the season.
Steve Evans’ Gillingham side sit a mere two points off a promotion play-off spot and the experienced manager said that whilst the supporters are able to dream, the players have a job to stay focused.
Gillingham, aiming for a third successive victory, play host to Doncaster at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday, but Evans knows the task will be anything but easy.
The Gaffer spoke with local media via Zoom ahead of the game.
“The players have been fantastic. We have taken knocks along the way but they have kept focused and kept working hard.
“Statistically, the teams that I produce and work with, similar to Paul Raynor, are much stronger in the second half of the season. I am not fearful of the next ten games.
“I’ve been in and around the town this morning and you would have thought we had been promoted with the amount of people who have stopped me, from a respectful distance, when I am getting fuel or in a supermarket. People can almost dream. I said to the supporters, our job as football staff and football players is to allow our supporters to dream but for ourselves to stay focused, get on the training ground and the matchday pitch and work incredibly hard.
“I’m very proud to be the manager of Gills and I am very proud to be a manager of a football club that is the only professional club in the whole of Kent. Gillingham are deserving of being in the Championship but we have to earn the right to get there.
“The lads are giving everything. If they don’t give me everything, then I don’t want them around. I have to know, when I go to bed at night, that every player that is wearing a Gillingham Football Club shirt is giving everything for the cause.”
Finding the Gills way
“I tend to listen to certain managers and how they speak about the game and the whole thought process. One that sticks out for me is Burnley’s Sean Dyche. He says: ‘you have to find a way to win games.’
“He probably experiences that more than most, when he looks at his squad and then every other Premier League squad. I suppose he goes to bed on Christmas Eve and dreams he will wake up as the Man City boss, but these are the kind of teams he has to beat. He has to find a way to win games.
“We have a plan of how we sign players and when we sign players and we give them an idea of the way he have to play to compete with some of the clubs with huge resources for our level. At the minute, the boys are finding a way. We can play. We can play through the lines. We have Dempsey, O’Keefe, Graham, MacDonald… they are all passers. If we can get those boys working as hard as we can, then it gives us a chance.”
Graham and Vadaine
“They have always been a handful against my teams, always! Jordan Graham will always put crosses into the box. As the Wolves fans know, he can really put some deliveries into the box, but you need someone in there who is going to be brave.
“What we have done with Vadaine, is we have given him more intensive training. For most of his years, he’s probably turned up and he’s just been part of the group. He’s getting more striker training now and he is making more moves and runs and that is why he is getting on the end of headers. Credit to the coaching staff, but enormous credit to Vadaine and Jordan Graham.”
“Connor Ogilvie got a bad knock against Lincoln in the last two minutes of the game (Lincoln on Tuesday). Alex MacDonald we took off because he was feeling his calf. We will see where they are on Friday. We don’t have too many options to change because of the size of the squad.”
Doncaster on Saturday
“They have had a couple of defeats, but it is nothing more than a blip. Losing Darren Moore as a manager is a blow, losing him a manager and a guy is a double blow. I know Darren really well and I’ve been speaking to him in recent times and he’s gone on to a huge challenge at Sheffield Wednesday, but what a wonderful squad he has left behind.
“Andy Butler is a young man getting an early start in management. Doncaster Rovers have a very progressive board to have given him this opportunity. He has been a warrior against my teams, so I am sure he will be a fine manager.
“When they come to Priestfield on Saturday, it will be a stern challenge. They have a top-class squad and I am sure they will be in that top six and trying to get in that top two.
“They gave us a football lesson earlier in the season, they may have a different manager but they still play with the same style and swagger.”