Gillingham FanZoner Damian Buxton reflects on Martin Allen's sacking last weekend and says it was inevitable.
If the rumblings and rumours that have been emanating from Gillingham over the past few months are to be believed, then Allen's sacking has been inevitable for a while.
Rumours of unrest behind the scenes, combined with the side's poor form over the last six months led to Allen losing his job amidst a flurry of internet outrage and surprise from fans of all clubs. A week on, and with the dust having settled on the departure, Saturday's match with Preston was played out in an atmosphere of ambivalence at Priestfield - with the ground and the team both distinctly flat until the final onslaught triggered by Danny Kedwell's late goal.
Chairman Paul Scally is rarely one to make a snap appointment - Iffy Onuora spent nine games in caretaker charge prior to Mark Stimson's appointment - and claimed to have received 45 applications by the middle of last week.
This means that the Gills are a side that find themselves very much in limbo. Under interim manager Peter Taylor for the next few weeks, the form needs to turn around quickly to give the new manager the best chance of staying in the division. When the new man does take over, he will need to hit the ground running. Here are three things that the new man, whether it is Taylor or someone else, must address.
The Style of play
Scally revealed to Radio Kent last week that, among others, a contributing reason for Allen's sacking was the style of football employed. Spun as backs to the wall grit last season, when the team were grinding out 1-0 victories and clean sheets, the robust nature of Allen's side was turgid to watch this season. Any new manager is likely to want to put their own twist on the style, but won't have time for widespread changes.
Taylor's attempt to put his stamp on the side was evident on Saturday, with goalkeeper Stuart Nelson looking for the short ball from the off, but it proved to be very much a work in progress.
In reality, the football is unlikely to change drastically. The squad is one built by Allen to reflect his game, and so is not going to become an Arsenal-esque exhibit of flowing football any time soon. Until the new man can make changes in the transfer market the team are likely to have to stay fairly direct, but improving the style of play will need to be high on the new manager's agenda.
Martin Allen had his strengths as a coach and a manager, but creating a good midfield was definitely not one of them. The jewel in the crown of his predecessor Andy Hessenthaler, the Gills midfield now looks weaker than the one Allen inherited.
Former player of the year Danny Jackman was quickly moved on by Allen, as was Jack Payne. Whilst Payne was always likely to be leaving the club eventually, the manner of his exit - used sporadically before being farmed out on loan - leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many supporters, and has obviously weakened the midfield.
Directly linked to the point about the style of play, the midfield currently looks devoid of the creativity needed to play the ball on the floor. Hopefully this was tactics rather than personnel, but the new man needs to find a combination that works. Taylor played a five-man midfield with Steven Gregory, Charlie Lee and Danny Hollands in central areas on Saturday, but it proved too far in the workmanlike direction of the balance between solidity and creativity.
Hollands has yet to show that he adds anything to the side that Gregory or Lee don't, and this perhaps reflects the fact that he was probably signed as a replacement for them when they were both transfer listed.
The new manager will have options, Amine Linganzi, Charlie Allen and Bradley Dack could all come in, (personally I would play Weston and German wide with Whelpdale at the top of a midfield three) but he wontt have much time to experiment with them. Whichever combination he picks, sorting the midfield will be very much at the top of his in tray.
His summer return to the club was anticipated with an almost rabid excitement in Kent, but so far McDonald has yet to hit the heights of previous spells at the club.
In truth, expectations have probably been too high. Whilst he scored 25 goals in his initial loan spell at the club, he has done little since that spell, and the comparisons with his Gills predecessor Simeon Jackson have never been fair. McDonald has shown glimpses of his talent this season - scoring two goals, a disallowed wonder goal at Coventry, and winning two penalties against MK Dons - but has looked worryingly short of sharpness in some games.
The problem of McDonald would be compounded if Taylor gets the job. Playing on the right of a 451 did not suit McDonald on Saturday, but he is neither likely to dislodge Kedwell as the lone man in a 451, and may struggle in that formation if he did.
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