The Season Just Gone
As it was to Spurs, the end of last season was cruel to Gillingham. At Christmastime they were in second place. If they had held their place, they would’ve won automatic promotion to the Championship.
Much of their campaign was built on the shoulders of star player Bradley Dack. Dack was good enough to win the Sky Bet League One Player of the Year award, but we’ll hear more about him later.
On March 28th they beat Bury 1-0 in front of a raucous crowd of 2,907. At that moment, they were in fourth place, still good enough to make the promotion playoffs in League One.
They proceeded to take only 3 points from their remaining 8 games, losing 5 of their last 6 overall. This collapse allowed Barnsley to overtake them (and others) to snag the sixth playoff spot on goal difference. Barnsley got promoted via the playoffs, and now sit in fourth place in the Championship, while Gillingham are thirteenth in League One.
Such is life in the lower leagues. Things change so quickly, you have to seize your chances at promotion when they present themselves.
The Gills have been relegated from League One twice in the last 10 years. This most recent spell in England’s third division started when they were crowned champions of League Two during the 2012-2013 season.
So technically they’re better than us because they’ve won “the league” more recently than we have. Right?
The Season Ahead
Justin Edinburgh leads Gillingham in another quest for glory this season. And by glory, I mean another chance at promotion to the Championship.
For Edinburgh, this game represents a return to White Hart Lane. Edinburgh made 215 appearances for Tottenham from 1990-2000. He was a defender, and only managed one goal for the Lilywhites, but was a good servant to the club during some tough times in the ‘90s.
He did however have the honor of being the last player ever sent off at the old Wembley Stadium. Edinburgh was dismissed during our 1999 League Cup final victory over Leicester City. On that day he was shown red for getting in Robbie Savage’s face. Everyone hates Robbie Savage, so kudos to whoever gets in his face and tells him what’s what.
I won’t pretend like I can accurately predict how Gillingham’s season will go, but Dack should be enough to keep them around the playoff spots. And Gillingham’s tendency to mess everything up should see them slide back into mid-table in the season’s final days.
Gillingham don’t play the brutish hoof-ball that many League One teams do. They’ve got players who can build and create attacks on the ground, but that’s at a third division level. Their only real chance against a team like Spurs is to park the bus and take their chances on counterattacks and set pieces.
Bradley Dack is easily their most talented player. The 22-year-old is a local lad from Kent, and to be honest he’s probably too good for Gillingham and for League One. He’s drawn interest from Championship teams like Bristol City and Brighton, and it’s only a matter of time before Dack finds himself in a higher division. When they do get possession, their offense will flow through and rely on him.
Well, they’ve got Dack. He’s an attacking midfielder who has shown a unique ability to score from outside the box. The reigning League One POTY managed 13 goals and 11 assists last campaign.
Don’t be surprised if he finds a way to make an impact against Spurs. A big performance from Dack here could be exactly what he needs to turn the heads of some bigger clubs.
As for other strengths…uh…well…they’re the only team in Kent! The so called “Garden of England” is theoretically united behind the Gills. The lack of other regional teams leads many to laugh at Gillingham for not having rivals, but it certainly helps in that the only option for many young players in the area is to play for Gillingham.
Gillingham’s left back is Paul Konchesky. He was their big signing of this past transfer window. He’s 35-years-old now…I think that all speaks for itself. He wasn’t very good in his prime, and he’s certainly not any good now.
Gills fans seem to be particularly angry over the departure of John Egan this summer. Egan, an Irish center-back, recently moved to Brentford on a free transfer. He’s been replaced by Deji Oshilaja, who is on loan from Cardiff.
Oshilaja was adjudged to not be good enough for Cardiff this season. Cardiff are dead last in the Championship at the moment. So by the means of the transitive property, I’m going to say that Oshilaja may not be very good either.
But this team’s biggest weakness is just that they’re a small club, even for League One. Whether it’s their stadium, budget, academy, or fan base…they just don’t have anywhere close to the amount resources that Spurs have.
There should be significant rotation in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting lineup for this match. The League Cup is the lowest priority of all the competitions Spurs are in, so we’ll definitely see some youngsters get chances to impress for the senior team. I’d imagine most of the players who featured against Sunderland on Sunday will be rested for this one.
Your guess is as good as mine, but here’s the way I see both teams lining up for this cup match.
We haven’t seen Kevin Wimmer even on the bench this season. If he doesn’t start here against Gillingham, something is clearly wrong between him and Pochettino. Expect Carter-Vickers, Carroll, Onomah, and Winks to all get their first shots of the season with the senior team.
Some familiar faces in that Gillingham side! Konchesky, Jamie O’Hara, and Emmanuel Osadebe were all Spurs players at one point. O’Hara made 34 appearances for Tottenham, while Osadebe was only ever a youth player at White Hart Lane.
There really isn’t anyway of dancing around it, we should win this game easily. Even with a starting-11 that is far from our first choice, we should handle a League One side like Gillingham.
Dack gets one for the Gills, but Spurs roll 5-1 on the day.