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To the Gills

Or more accurately, the Gills to us.

Yes, the new season has made its first step into our view, with the announcement yesterday of the fixtures.

It’s Gillingham at home, in case you’ve either been away, under a rock or didn’t quite get the headline above.

Oh, and the Carabao Cup draw was made too. With, er, Neil Harris taking his side down to SW17 again ten days later.

A nation yawns.

The Mario Pizza thingy is a little bit more interesting, with Villa’s thumb suckers turning up to a disinterested crowd.

But we get to see who will ruin our collective weekends for the next nine months or so, nearly two months after last season left a stench.

And you’ve probably already made notes about the stand-out fixtures.

Most will be interested in when we play Slutton, and New Year’s Day at GGL will be a bunfight for tickets.

They might as well put the ballot out now, because this will be a case of demand seriously outstripping supply.

Xmas itself isn’t too bad for us, Newport at home on Boxing Day then Colchester a few days later.

Easter? Fancy a trip on Good Friday to Harrogate then Easter Monday at home to Salford? Well, that’s what you’ve got to face.

As for the last game of the season, where we can seal our relegation mid-table mediocrity glorious return to League One, it will no doubt be a shittily early kickoff at Grimsby.

I’m also sure we have our own, personal landmark games of the season, things like anniversaries etc.

We’re at home to Crewe on your editor’s birthday, by the way. Though I’ll have just touched down on the other side of the Atlantic by then…

You’ll have twigged there’s no glamour ties like Sheffield Wednesday, or Derby, or Ipswich to name but three.

And that does hurt a little bit, knowing that our arrogance and pig-headed cluelessness has cost us those league fixtures.

But I don’t think next season is all about those now. Playing the Owls and Tractor Drivers may be “big” games, but our ineptitude took the gloss off those clashes a long time ago.

Instead, it’s now about renewal, about getting wins under our belts again and to actually have an enjoyable season for once.

Relegation is shit, but knowing we’re capable of winning at, say, Stevenage or Northampton is a little bit of a compensation.

We need to get that hunger back as a club, and our aim must be to return to League One.

It might not happen next season, it may not even happen the season after. But we’ve got something to aim at again.

Oh, and cup fixtures notwithstanding, I’m quite glad we don’t have to deal with the Franchise circus for at least a year…

Of course, we have to have a team worthy of on-field success (or non-failure), and thus far Alex Pearce still remains our only signing.

There was a good interview with Terry Skiverton earlier this week on the OS, where he genuinely looks the part of an experienced assistant.

It’s worth listening to the whole thing, and the “bad cop” comment is something you daren’t not laugh at, but his comments on transfers catch the ear:

“What we don’t want is players that are coming in for their last pay day. We’re looking at players who want to have a good last three or four years to their careers at this club, including a couple of winning seasons.

Sounds like we’re after a couple more Alex Pearce types.

It appears we’re closing in on a couple of players, and no doubt they will be signed and announced as soon as this very article is published to the world.

If not, then I do expect a couple in by the time we head to Eastbourne.

But it’s interesting that TS is encouraging patience, as almost he (and JJ) know that the supporters are clamouring for just one new face right now.

If we’re after more experienced pros, then they take time. Because if we’re after somebody with three or four more years left on the clock, so are others.

We missed out on Danny Hylton, as he’s gone to Northampton, although one wonders if we’ve dodged a big bullet there.

If we’re looking at him, then we’ll be looking at others of a similar ilk too.

As frustrating as it is that we’re still not adding to the squad yet, this may be a case of patience paying off.

Contracts end next week, there’s going to be a lot of players looking for work, and I doubt we won’t get most of what we’re after.

This might be JJ’s first transfer window, but it’s not the case for TS. And you get the sense already they know what they want…

Still, pre-season training is well under way now, and it seems the out-list isn’t fully completed.

We parted company with two backroom staff though, perhaps suggesting it’s not just those playing who could be chopped.

James Oliver-Pearce has left our youth setup to become first team coach at Reading, which is some step up.

Poached by Mark Bowen? Well, the Royals have just brought back Eddy Neddy

Perhaps more intriguing is Andy Parslow becoming set-piece coach at Swansea.

That might be a case of simply moving upwards (well, going from a relegated side to a Championship one is definitely that).

But why “intriguing”? Well, according to JJ in the SLP:

“Myself and my coaching staff have always covered those areas and didn’t necessarily feel the need for a specialist in that area, so that was communicated to Andy and he had a decision to make.

Interesting neither one of those spoke much to each other over the summer before Parslow left.

But as our now-ex Restarts Coach is heading to south Wales, it seems our current coaching staff are more hands-on and less impressed with gimmicks.

And while we’re all hoping for a different looking squad next season – maybe the biggest change is already happening on the touchline?

Under MR, we were arguably over-coached, with emphasis on youth and more loans than your nearest branch of Natwest.

In his interview above, TS put in a comment about “maybe one or two loans”. A throwaway line perhaps, but also a radical departure from last year if it happens.

We were right to try what we did last season, just as we’re right to scrap a lot of it this time round and start again.

The next big signing will be the Head of Football Operations, or whatever it’s called, as it will formally scrap the Football Panel that failed so miserably.

We haven’t had a Meet The Manager announced yet, but if we have one, it’ll be interesting to hear JJ’s approach.

Although it’s a shame MB isn’t still in charge. I’d loved to have heard his thoughts when he found out we had a Finishers Coach…

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