Gillingham v West Ham United

Preview Percy was reasonably happy with New Year's Day's dismantling of Bournemouth. However this was tempered by the fact that we hid all the brandy he had earmarked for a celebratory drink in honour of dry January. I'm sure he will forgive us some day. In the meantime here's his look at Sunday evening's trip to Gillingham...



Next up we take a trip down the M2 to Gillingham. Kick off on Sunday is at the odd time of 6.16pm. It was going to be 6.15 for TV but there's a minute's delay as part of a project to raise awareness of mental health issues. Trains on the C2C between Grays and Barking have replacement buses if you are using trains rather than the tunnel, so the extra minute might be handy.

So Gillingham then. We haven't been down that way for nigh on 15 years. At the end of that season (2004/05) we went in opposite directions us upwards via the playoffs and them downwards to what they now call League One, or Division Three in old money.


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Their chairman is a bit of a card. Paul Scally has been a controversial figure - and this may start to sound just a tad familiar - repeatedly stating his desire to shift the club from the Priestfield Stadium to somewhere else, not necessarily in Gillingham, though at least he wants to keep them in Kent. Just to add to the sense of deja-vu he's had major fallouts with supporters' groups, banning the ex-chairman of one such organisation for life (though to be fair the ban was rescinded though only after the supporter had served six years).

It's not just independent writers that Scally has had a gripe with - the Kent Messenger group were persona non grata for many years and he has also naused off many other clubs over the years over a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to transfer deals. This all seems so familiar one wonders whether there is some sort of guidebook that is issued to prospective club owners when they start out.

This season they are sitting in 11th place in the league having played 24 matches this season. Although that's five places shy of a playoff spot they are just three points behind Peterborough who currently occupy the final berth. Though a number of teams between them and Posh have played fewer games they will probably feel they are handily placed for the second half of the season and that they still have much to play for, league wise.

Current form is good - their last six record of won three and drawn three is second only to that of Lincoln (4-2) over the same period and you have to go back to 23 November last year for their last defeat, a 1-0 reverse at AFC Wimbledon. In the Cup this season they reached the third round by defeating Sunderland - 1-0 AET in a replay after a 1-1 draw up on Wearside - and Doncaster 3-0 at Priestfield.

Daisy, the full-time permanent assistant with the beautiful smile tells me that there is a familiar name in the opposition squad. Olly Lee, son of Rob and, a graduate of the Academy, though he didn't trouble the first XI statisticians at the Boleyn. Since leaving us back in 2012 Lee has been about a bit and he is currently on the books at Hearts, his loan spell in Kent being due to expire at the end of January. It's Lee's second loan spell with the Gills - he played eight games in 2011/12 whilst on our books.


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A second loan player, Alex Jakubiak, is joint top scorer with 6 this term. He's on a season-long deal from Watford for whom he has made just a solitary appearance since signing as a pro in 2014. Gillingham is Jakubiak's eighth loan club in the last five years. Jakubiak has been on the bench for the last five matches, though his 80th minute equaliser against Portsmouth last time out might see him recalled to the starting XI.

The other joint top scorer is Brandon Hanlan. Hanlan's in his second season in Kent having been released by Charlton at the end of 2017/18. His first season with the Gills saw him given their young player of the year award.

There is another (slightly) familiar name in the squad in the form of Matty Willock, whose brother Joe is regularly to be found plying his trade at Arsenal. A third brother, Chris, is on Benfica's books and is currently on loan at West Brom. All three started out as kids at Arsenal, though Matty was let go at 15 and subsequently ended up at Man Utd. Apparently all three were on the pitch when Man Utd and Arsenal's reserve teams met a while back, giving rise to the phrase "a right bunch of Willocks". Probably.

We like a good name in these parts so we are pleased to give mention to their skipper' whose birth certificate rejoices in the splendid name of Maximillian Andreas Ehmer. Sadly reduced to Max by all and sundry, the Frankfurt-born defender has been in the UK since he was a kid and started out at QPR. He signed pro terms at the age of 17 back in 2009 and stayed with QPR until 2015.

However he never quite managed the breakthrough to the first XI regular status, making one league appearance in his six years at Loftus Road. Instead he had a peripatetic existence with loan spells at Yeovil, Preston, Stevenage and Carlisle appearing on his CV. He pitched up at Gillingham on loan in 2014/15, eventually signing a permanent deal at the start of 2015-16. He now has over 200 appearances for the Gills and is in his second spell as captain. So I guess only his Mum gets to call him Maximillian these days. Which is a shame.

Over now to the wild and wacky world of Association Football then. I see Klopp has been moaning again. Not content with PGMOL pandering to his every whim he is moaning about the crowded fixture list and the fact that FA Cup matches have replays. If only he had been able to take his team away to somewhere warm for a few days - say Qatar eh?

Elsewhere French women's international Wendie Renard has appealed for help in finding her trophy for making FIFA's team of the year which she left on a train. Sadly Pickles the dog has long since departed for the great lamppost in the sky so, unless there are any other trophy locating canines out there she will probably have to rely on the Gendarmerie. Still it says a lot for how far the women's game have come - having just shelled out an amount the size of a small nation's defence budget on a return ticket to Gillingham for the weekend, I am impressed that female stars now get paid enough to travel by train.

And so to us. Well one swallow does not a summer make, and it has to be said that Bournemouth reminded me of, well, us really. However, it was a much better performance all round on New Year's Day. Players looked interested and willing to work their socks off. Something that was all too absent from the last days of Pellegrini.

Part of that will be down to the natural desire to impress a new boss, whoever he may be. However, some of that will be down to Moyes himself. The trick will be to maintain that honeymoon period for as long as possible. I'm still not whelmed by the appointment - I still think there are better managers and that Moyes' appointment owed more to availability than anything else. However, if he can keep that work ethic going that will be half the job done.


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The VAR thing was much on display against Bournemouth. The Noble penalty was a bit soft but there was contact in the form of a hand on the skipper's back. Given that Liverpool are regularly granted spot kicks where no contact occurs at all I will take those all day long until referees start applying the laws of the game properly for everyone. The Cresswell decision was interesting. Technically speaking his challenge was strong yes but, arguably, not even a foul. It certainly wasn't a red card. A yellow was a get out of jail free card for the officials. We cocked it up but we will save face by giving a yellow.

Looking forward, Moyes is saying the right things about the Cup - the intention is to field as close as possible to a first XI for this one - and rightly so in my opinion. Hopefully the days of fielding an eleven that requires parental consent to play just so a manager can make a point to the owners are long gone.

Quite what that XI will look like will depend on fitness. Fabianski will start if he can shake off some soreness from his hip - all that standing around on his own in the cold the other night won't have done him any good. Fab is one of four players given no greater than a 50/50 chance of playing. The others are Noble (ankle), Antonio (hamstring) and Cresswell (unspecified knock). Martin (hamstring), Yarmolenko (hamstring) and Wilshere (you name it) will all miss out so don't expect too many of those 50/50s to appear.

Prediction? Well normally I would have been very very worried about this. We saw earlier on this season at Oxford how a poor attitude can lead to disaster and there has been shedloads of that on show in recent weeks. However - and remember this is a small sample base - that willingness to put a shift in that was on display against Bournemouth should make all the difference if they can keep it up.

So the ?2.50 I was going to spend on a private detective to find out where they have hidden all the brandy around here will instead go on an away win this time round. Mr Winstone please place it all on a 3-1 win to us my good man.

Enjoy the game!



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When last we met at Priestfield: Won 1-0 (Championship February 2005)

As I recall I was on weather watch all day here at the rest home as a major dump of snow was forecast. In the end it held off enough for us to take our seats on the ricketiest of temporary stands. Harewood's 13th minute effort from Etherington's cross was enough to get us all three points in conditions officially described as "perishing" by the Met Office. The snow came later that night if you are that bothered.


Referee: Andrew Madley

Brother of the much in the news Bobby, he was promoted to the so-called select group, which means he is set for life. Unless he commits some social faux pas. Like his brother.


Danger Man: Alex Jakubiak

Young and with a point to prove. Top scorer.


Percy's Poser:

Last week we looked at the Bournemouth Echo who posted the following headline the other day:

"From XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX to panto giant - here's how Poole's villain made it to the stage"

Congratulations to Mrs Georgina Incommunicado of Wivenhoe who correctly identified the missing words as "Israeli Intelligence". Obviously.

This week's poser looks at a spot of history that happened to take place in the Kentish village of East Peckham. We ask you what world first did Walter Arnold achieve on 28 January 1886? Quite simple really.

Best of British!

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