Martin Allen's confidence misplaced?
16 August ~ No one said it would be easy. Actually, come to think of it, the manager did: "Everyone is in the division because they deserve to be, no matter what their history is. It ain't that good. It's League One," Gillingham boss Martin Allen told BBC Radio Kent this summer. "It's not like we are playing Premier League clubs or Championship clubs. It is just League One. We'll take a couple of cooling tablets, get ourselves a nice bottle of water, chill out and go out and smash them all again." It hasn't gone to plan so far.
Two straight defeats and an early exit from the League Cup, with no goals scored and seven conceded. It's far too early to hit the panic button but Gills fans will be mindful of recent club history. Promotion from League Two in 2009 via the play-offs was followed by the frustration of relegation straight back down again the following season. The acrimony that accompanied that plummet means most of us would settle for a little bit of consolidation this time.
I think it's fair to say that League One is our natural habitat. The Gills have spent the majority of the past 40 years in the third tier. While it was heartening to win a League title for only the second time in the club's history last season, with the charismatic Allen making every joyous step to promotion a delight due to his idiosyncratic pronouncements along the way, we are now back fighting at what most of us would consider our "natural weight".
The season opener could have gone either way, with Colchester snatching victory at Priestfield via a last-minute winner. Allen said it was a sucker punch of a defeat that we would just "have to take on the chin". What followed, a 4-0 defeat at Molineux last weekend, was an absolute battering, particularly for a defence that was proud to be the tightest in League Two last season. Full-back Matt Fish's long-term absence with a cruciate knee injury sustained in the early moments of the season opener has not helped.
The lack of goals so far has also been a surprising interruption in service. In the last two league campaigns Gillingham scored a total of 145 goals. Transfer activity over the summer saw the return of a pair of popular strikers to supplement Danny Kedwell, leading scorer for the past two seasons. Cody McDonald was prolific in his first spell at Priestfield three years ago, scoring 25 goals, and he did his popularity no harm at all by adding another four in a seven-game loan spell from Coventry City last season.
While McDonald's permanent signature had long been coveted by the Rainham End faithful, Ade Akinfenwa's return has split opinion. The muscular centre-forward formed a fine partnership in League Two alongside McDonald in his previous stint but can they reproduce the magic a division higher? It's time for what Ade calls "beast mode" against Brentford tomorrow. Haydn Parry