Pre-Season Thoughts
By 1
Wednesday 29 Jul 2009 15:25:00
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Hi Darren, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions.

Q) I guess I should start by asking how you view Gillingham.  Obviously the
two clubs have a history, but is it really that heated?  Will three points
against us be sweeter than any other three point hauls?

A) I'm always a little weary of teams that are newly promoted. Sometimes the
good form from the previous season can carry into the first few games and
really set you up for an exciting season. Ideally I would have liked
Swindon to start at home, and think that it will be a tough game on the
day. I've only recently been made aware of the "past" troubles between the
two clubs, and I'm hopeful it will stay that way. Bristol Rovers are the
team we want bragging rights over locally. This season though there are a
few "big" clubs that I think everyone will want to beat, namely
Southampton, Charlton and Leeds... Let's add MK Dons to that list too, not
because their big, just because they’re the MK Dons! I relate Gillingham to
ourselves when we got promoted from League Two a few seasons ago, people
were talking about reaching the play off's, or at least a mid table finish.
I wasn't as optimistic, and felt that a mid table finish would be a great
first season. It was surprising to see the players that were clearly better
then a lot of players in League Two, suddenly start to look like players
who are out of their depth. I would view Gillingham in a similar light,
survival is the priority, if your sat in the mid table area come what May,
you've had a good season!

Q) Right then, on to this season!  How have your preparations gone this
pre-season?  Obviously Simon Cox has gone, have you got anyone to replace
him?  What about new signings in other areas, does anyone stand out?

A) Losing Cox is a massive, massive blow. If we'd have had even a mediocre
defence last season we would have been around the play off's, I don't know
exactly how many goals we managed as a team, but we had no problem scoring,
we'd go 3-0 up and end up drawing. Cox scored 3 hat-tricks last season, and
32 goals in total. If he wasn't scoring them, he was still involved in
pretty much every attack. Cox moved on, and no-one at the club begrudged
his move, we all knew he was a big fish in a small pond and I really hope
he does well at West Brom. This will be Danny Wilson's first season in
charge, and he definitely helped keep us up last season, made some shrewd
loan signings that came in and made the difference. Gordon Greer came in and
shored up the defence. We've managed to turn that into a permanent move and
that'll help us. Pre-season has gone well, we managed a draw with FC Cluj
out in Austria, returning from a tournament undefeated, even managing a 1-0
win. We managed a clean sheet against Cardiff City at the weekend and face
West Brom tonight. It looks like we have a fairly strong team, the only
thing i feel were lacking is firepower up front. Billy Paynter is a good
player, someone to do the donkey work if you like, which helped Simon Cox
out. Billy got a bit of stick from our fans at times, but for me he was a
bit of an unsung hero. Billy won't score us lots of goals, but if we can
get someone with some pace playing along side him we could have a good
year. Jonathan Douglas is the highlight of the signings for me so far,
captained Leeds a couple of times last season and the Leeds faithful rate
him, so how we managed to sign him is impressive. No-one to replace Cox, to
be fair players of that calibre are few and far between, but if we can an
average striker for this league, we may well be in shape for a better year
this year...well, that's the hope anyway :-)

Q) Aside from our History, what kind of game do you expect us to give you?
Do you see us as a passing team, or do you expect to see more of ball in
the air?  Which Gillingham players do you think will cause you trouble?

A) The name that immediately spring to mind is Simeon Jackson. He strikes
me as a good young player that will cause our defence problems. We've
traditionally liked to pass the ball about, and I feel you'll be looking to
do the same. Play the long ball in this division, especially against the
better teams in the division and they'll soon hurt you. I think that's
where we struggled when we came up. Paul Sturrock had us playing very
direct football in League Two, and it worked. I rate him highly. We came
unstuck in this division doing the same, give the ball away too often and
you will lose the game. As we're playing away from home I can imagine us
trying to play more directly, but I would expect the home team to want to
pass the ball around. If you don't, then I'm hopeful we can make you pay
for it. I think it will be a highly contested game, it's the first game of
the season and it doesn't matter who you’re playing against, you want to come
away with a result. I won't read much into the result though, last season
we absolutely destroyed Tranmere 3-0 (i know 3-0 isn't a massive scoreline
but we completely dominated them) in the first game of the season and I
thought it was going to be our naive!

Q) Now for some predictions!  First off let’s go for the score between
Gillingham and Swindon on the opening day?

A) 2-2, don't ask why, I guess I can see Gillingham scoring against us, and
although we haven't got a prolific goal scorer up top, I'm hopeful that the
other players will start chipping in with goals. A draw on the first game
of the season away from home will be something to build on. A win is what
I'll wish for, but I think a draw is more realistic.

Q) What about where you expect Swindon to finish?

A) Hopefully mid table. Call me pessimistic but I can't see us reaching the
play-off's. I do feel like our club is heading in the right direction for
the first time in about 10 years, and if we can improve on last season and
take small steps towards improving each year then hopefully in another
season or two we can really look to push on. After the last couple of years
we've had, I'm just delighted we're alive!

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