Adam Bird

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Monday, 21 May 2012

News, Views and a Promise

Some news from me

In danger of slipping into the abyss that is known as ‘non-updated blog content’, I thought I’d write a short and concise account of just what’s been keeping me away from my keyboard and broken the weekly habit which I’ve so long maintained.

I should first of all congratulate myself on ‘short and concise’. Afterall, those who have read any of my previous blog posts will know that I don’t do short and concise very well! Waffle yes, overthought and over complicated, yes to that as well!

Anyhow, before I get too far into beating myself up, what’s been happening?

The biggest thing? That would be the three websites I’ve been working on with my Uncle Matthew and his colleague Austin. We aim to soft launch next weekend with a formal live announcement a week later.

I’ve actually been invited to stand up and talk about the whole process to the church congregation at the formal launch service. To say that I’m nervous is an understatement! I don’t think I’ve ever stood up and spoken to an audience, let alone nearly two hundred baying Christians! I say that in jest, it should be okay, as long as I can talk as passionately about the subject as I write about it, the message should hopefully come across.

With a sprint race now to the end, it hasn't been a case for me of being away from my keyboard unable to blog. It has been the other way around, chained to the blasted thing instead! I can't complain though, It has been a great experience and I am really happy with how things are progressing. I will of course add a full and comprehensive review of the project as a conclusion to the series of case studies I've written previously so that I can measure what I’ve done and have something that both parties can use to look back and learn from.

At the beginning of May, shortly after my last post, Phoebe turned six months old. Another milestone that measures just how quickly time flies and just how impossible it is to stop, enjoy and appreciate the discovery of life and all of the new things that Pheobe does everyday. Just as Oliver does too, constantly learning, constantly finding new ways to put across his point of view, or tell us something he has done - as well as of course, new excuses for his cheekiness!

It's for those reasons why I’ve loved doing the “Year in the Life” projects, which in Phoebe’s case is now over half-way complete. There was an interesting article last week in the BBC which I share with you here discussing the trend and why this experiment is becoming more and more popular. In the main, it was a load of bullshit looking at the wider social aspect and how people’s perspective has changed and blah blah blah.

The simple reason why people are doing it now is because they can. My parents wouldn’t have been able to do it of me and Jessica because it would have cost them an arm and a leg getting the photographs developed and when they did, they were never sure whether the photograph would come out alright in the first place. I can take 100 photos of Phoebe each day, one is used and the other ninety-nine are disposable. It might be too simple an explanation for the BBC, but it good enough for me.

Whilst all of this has been going on, life, work and the general day-to-day existence I’ve been acutely aware of something nagging in the back of my mind. Finishing the book that I started writing last year has become something of an obsession recently and as soon as the paint has dried on the three websites I’ve been working on, the manuscript will be back out and the mysterious tale of the Bicycle Man will be finally told once and for all!

I promise...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Gills - End of Season Review

Priestfield

At the beginning of every football season, the vast majority of football supporter will harbour hopes that their team will be victorious, that the end of season will be a celebration of sporting endeavour and an outpouring of pride revelling in a promotion or cup win.

For most however, the reality is somewhat different and the end of season is met with apathy and frustration, whilst looking back and wondering just where the hell it went oh so wrong.

Maybe it isn’t, maybe it is just the way I see things as a long suffering Gillingham supporter and that I’m a unique type of person, blinded by rose tinted glasses with extra thick lenses. After all, on reflection, come August last year I believed that we, as a club had lots to look forward to.

The previous campaign had ended with the Gills in 8th place, just missing out on a play-off spot and with it a chance to return straight back to League One, “where we belong” , the gospel, according to our current manager Andy Hessenthaler and certain members of the home faithful, who still have something of a superiority complex when it comes to our humble League Two opposition.

Last summer was spent shipping out the dead wood left over from previous incumbent; Mark Stimson and his underachieving squad and replacing them with, on paper, players of superior quality and footballing prowess.

Granted, we lost our three leading goal scorers from the season before in McDonald, Akinfewa and Barcham, but with Danny Kedwell and Adam Birchall signing up in replacement, we had two players with plenty of goals in their locker - even if they were relatively unknown quantities at League Two level.

Further to those two acquisitions the management team somehow convinced Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale that they should ply their trade for North Kent’s finest and with it, make a temporary step down to League Two - the brief being of course, that we were going up as champions!

The players believed it, the management believed it and so did us supporters, sold once again to hype and expectation. When will we learn?

To be fair to Andy Hessenthaler, two things happened which dramatically affected his preparations and turned the beginning of the season into a funeral wake as opposed to the start of a non-stop party all the way back to the ‘promised land’.

Firstly, we lost our assistant manager, Ian Hendon to West Ham and with it perhaps, the touch of tactical nous that was evidently missing from the dugout for long parts of the season. Secondly, key summer signing Adam Birchall was injured rather innocuously after only five minutes of his debut in a pre-season friendly at Welling, which forced him to miss the season entirely.

We will never truly know what would have happened had both events not taken place, but they did and we had to move on regardless.

On the goal-scoring front, it seems that the loss of Adam Birchall was irrelevant. The subsequent loan/short term strikers that helped fill the void his injury created meant that the club finished top of the ‘goals scored’ league, which wasn't enough, we still finished the season once again, in a good, but not good enough 8th place.

Scoring goals then, wasn’t a problem, we hit six away from home, five goals twice and on numerous occasions hit four and three goals in a match. It was those that we conceded what proved our undoing.

Was it the earlier loss of Hendon, or have we generally got a shit defence?

My answer would be, probably both! Having an unsettled lineup and an established back four hasn’t helped, nor has the whole catalogue of injuries which seem to have befallen the team irrespective of position. Our fullbacks are probably our weakest links, often beaten too easily and lacking pace, which can certainly be said for most of the back line! Andy Frampton was another of those who arrived during the summer, but flattered to deceive and was beset by injuries that ruled him out for one reason or another.

At one stage, we lost an entire team due to injuries and played a string of games with a makeshift side of youth and reserve team players. In fact, it was the emergence of some of these younger players that proved to be the one big highlight of a season that was full of unfulfilled expectation.

Paolo Gazzaniga, Conner Essam, Jack Evans and Callum Davies as well as the steady improvement of Jack Payne. Names of young men with big futures in the game and all, except Gazzaniga are players who have been nurtured and grown up through the club’s academy teams.

The question is, can they improve sufficiently under the current management team?

Andy Hessenthaler was given a three year contract. His brief was to make an immediate return to League One, a league which Hessenthaler feels is our natural level. Except after two seasons, when we should be aiming for consolidation and year on year improvement we have the unappealing prospect of another failed promotion attempt to look forward to.

Last year we wasn’t quite good enough, nor this season it would seem - despite having arguably a far superior team. The success and failure is purely dependant upon the management team whose job it is to organise footballers, to inspire them and to ultimately win football matches.

I’d argue that Hessenthaler strongest strengths lie in his ability to inspire, but is ultimately let down with his organisation and tactical know how. Too often players are played out of position, or played when other, better options are crying out from the bench.

It is easy for us as supporters to sit in the stands watching and passing judgement, moaning on Twitter and online message boards. We don’t know what work goes on behind the scenes so can only judge on a results basis and what we see on the pitch before us.

Despite lighting up the league with the amount of goals we’ve scored, the brand of football currently played at Priestfield is dull and uninspired. Hessenthaler’s predecessor, the much derided Stimson who oversaw our disastrous away record (0 wins in an entire season) - actually played a brand of football that in the most part was enjoyable and exciting to watch. Long ball and kick and hope tactics will only get you so far, which has proved to be the case over the past two years.

The board of directors are therefore facing a pivotal decision.

Do the current management team have what it takes to take the club onwards and upwards? Is it worth investing over the summer in the current management team only to reach October and November no better off than we are now, or is it better to get a new man in with new ideas and let him start from scratch rather than inherit a team that is not his own?

Andy Hessenthaler, whatever happens will always be a man of Gillingham Football Club. He epitomised as a player what it means to wear a Gillingham shirt and we’ll always be grateful for that. There is a new generation of fan coming through the club at the moment who didn’t know Hessenthaler the player and Hessenthaler the manager is struggling to live up to his legendary name.

All of those who knew and remember both, we all want him to be successful, but not at the detriment of a successful team.

Whatever happens, whatever the decision made by the board, we need to get behind the decision. If Hessenthaler stays, it really will be do or die and if he goes, let’s thank him once again for the good times, get behind the new manager and have yet another attempt to secure the promotion we all crave.

Until then we've got the England national team and the European Championships to take our minds of our individual club failings, so if you have just been promoted, you'll soon get a chance to feel exactly like the rest of us do!

EDIT


And so, literally after ten minutes of this post existing live in its humble home of cyberspace, the news on the Official Gills website declares that Hessenthaler has left the club by mutual consent.

Much of what I said above is applicable and they were the reasons ultimately for his demise. He never once did anything wrong, he always had the club at the heart of every decision he made. Luck, judgement, didn't fall for him, sadly and we will always wonder what might have been.

I wish him luck whatever he does next and thank him dearly - for the good times.
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