Ahead of the game, Gills assistant manager Paul Raynor spoke to the press. Here are five of his key quotes.
On the break
“We will only know if it was beneficial with the result. If we do not get the result on Saturday, we will feel we have lost a bit of momentum from that good period.
“We were out and about scouting and gave the players a weekend off. We hope it has refreshed the boys and we are hopeful it has given them a little bit of focus and downtime because it has been hectic. It has taken its toll a little bit and it is a little bit difficult having a small squad but hopefully it has been good.”
Gillingham haven’t played a game for 11 days, and the break should be beneficial given the vast number of fixtures ahead of them.
But they went into the lay off in good form. As Raynor says – lose Saturday, and they will feel they lost a bit of momentum.
“Stuart O’Keefe and Jacob Mellis are working incredibly hard to get up to speed, but they are a few weeks away yet. We will assess Tom O’Connor – he is back in the building – he has done a lot of travelling and played 45 minutes in Luxemburg so it has been a dash for him to be assessed to see where he is, but other than the two long-term boys and making sure Tommy is OK we are full steam ahead.”
Gillingham have been hit hard by injuries this season, but it is looking likely that long-term absentees Stuart O’Keefe will be back fit much sooner than expected.
Tom O’Connor played for his country during the international period, so will be assessed, but it seems the Gills are finally getting their players back.
On five subs
“We were talking about it this morning. We struggle to have six or seven subs on the bench anyway. We can use all of them if we have five on the bench!
“It does help the bigger clubs – that is not me moaning and groaning, it is what it is, we will deal with it. We looked to the bench Sunderland produced here and when you can rely on Danny Graham and Will Grigg from the bench it will benefit the bigger clubs. But we will deal with it – we will try and use it to our benefit.”
There is no doubt larger teams will be able to utilise the new rulings more with a stronger bench, but, ultimately, it should help teams and players.
There are some mixed emotions in the Football League right now.
On fan relationships
“It is absolutely crucial to keep a good relationship. We have had a fantastic relationship with them. I know there were a few sceptics, and not everyone was happy when we were announced, but since we have come in, the backing we have had, the way the fans got behind us last season and we had a good period of results – it is massive to keep that connection and we have our fingers crossed for fans back as soon as possible because they really are massive to us.”
As Raynor says, after a mixed reaction from fans on their appointment, Raynor and manager Steve Evans clicked with fans last year and brought back the feel-good factor to Priestfield.
Fans will be back soon. In the meantime, though, teams have to adapt.
“Charlton are a good club, so we are looking forward to this one. The players should know the importance. They all live in the area now so they will be aware of the rivalry – the only sad thing is the fans will not be in the stadium to see it. We thrive on that as a management team – it would have been one of the fixtures the fans look forward to. Teams are intimidated coming here. But there is a real focus there and they players know how big a game it is.
“We have watched several Charlton’s games and managed to get a scout out. They are a big club. Lee [Bowyer] has done a fantastic job, how he has done that will all the off the field things is fantastic. He is a good guy; we get on very well with him. He is passionate on the sideline, but he has done a great job and we are looking forward to meeting up with him. They have got some fantastic players, a big budget, but it is game on and we are looking forward to pitting our wits against a good team.”
Charlton are a big side in good form and are full of talent.
Gillingham will have to be at their very best to get anything from Saturday’s game.