"Big V" delighted with his debut season at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Gills striker Vadaine Oliver says he has loved his first season with the Gills, and finished the campaign on a high by scoring against Plymouth on the final day earlier this month.
Oliver scored 20 goals in all competitions having led the line for much of the year. The 2020/21 season was not only his best goal-scoring season, but one where he was able to show there was more to his game than just the big target man.
“I think it proves a lot, and when you’re around better players and the quality I had around me this year, and the chances I had, it proved a lot of people that might have doubted me in terms of that part of my game," he said.
“I showed that I can do that side, and I don’t just have to be someone that can rustle defenders, someone you can play off and create chances for others. I can do the other side where if you give me the opportunities, I’ll put them away. Thankfully, the gaffer had that belief in me this year.”
Oliver was delighted with how the season went for him as he quickly adjusted to his new role and League One football. With 17 league goals, this past season was the first time since his debut season with Lincoln that V had surpassed the 10-goal mark.
Despite the personal achievements, there was one important thing missing for Oliver.
“It’s the best season that I’ve had, and I’ve really loved it. The only thing missing from it was the restrictions, having no fans there to be embraced by them when we’d scored goals. From a personal point, it has been a brilliant season.”
The Gills players did not play in front of home supporters for the entire season, and their presence was certainly missed. As a striker, whenever Oliver scores, he is used to being met by the loud roar of celebrations by the supporters. However, this past season changed all of that.
Vadaine expressed the importance the supporters hold in football and how scoring his 20th goal did not feel like the landmark it was supposed to be. Their lengthy absence has grown Oliver’s desire for their return.
“They bring a massive positive to the game; they bring atmosphere and joy. You look at it now, the majority of goals that I’ve scored, celebration wise it’s almost muted in comparison to when you have fans there. It’s not the same feeling.
“For me, as a striker, I cannot wait to have fans again because it’s a completely different feeling to score a winner, and you’ve got thousands of fans jumping and screaming your name. The biggest shout I heard when I got my 20th was myself! It was a huge thing, and when I scored it, I asked the referee at the time, was it a goal.
“Based on the reaction, I wasn’t sure if it was an actual goal or if it was getting ruled out for something beforehand. It’s not nice, so with fans coming back, everyone is buzzing and cannot wait for it.”
Now into the off-season, Oliver is able to go home and see his family. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, he was unable to travel home during the season. After a year like no other, he’s looking forward to some downtime and spending time with his children.
“With this first week I’ve had off, I’ve come straight back home. I’m not local, so I’ve missed so much time with my kids. I finally got to take my eldest swimming for the first time and getting to see him do that, which is great. It’s just beautiful to be back home and doing the school run, which is really nice.”