Steve Lovell declared himself “chuffed to bits” to be appointed Gillingham manager on a full-time basis following a successful seven-game stint as caretaker boss.
Lovell took charge of the team after Adrian Pennock, then Peter Taylor, departed the club, coming in to hold the fort while chairman Paul Scally worked on the club’s next permanent appointment.
But the former Gills striker and longtime coach had other ideas, and hoped to make a big enough impact during his caretaker stint to convince Scally to appoint him instead.
And, remarkably, that’s exactly what happened.
Lovell transformed the team, as a wave of confidence visibly went through the squad and performances improved instantly.
And now he’s been handed the job on a permanent basis until the end of the season, and he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m chuffed to bits,” he admitted.
“Obviously it’s been well-documented that it’s taken a little bit of time for this to happen, but I can understand with all the work that’s been going on behind the scenes at the football club.”
Lovell was referring to the club’s ongoing legal battle with former caterers Centerplate. But with the case heard and concluded earlier this week, Scally moved quickly to wrap up Lovell’s appointment to leave no lingering doubts over who’ll be leading the club for the remainder of the campaign.
Lovell said he understood the delay, but was happy to finally have the deal signed and sealed after a longer wait than expected.
“Me and the chairman have had a mutual respect regarding that, so it was important that the chairman did the work that he had to do and I just got on with the job. And it’s great now to have it on a full-time basis until the end of the season.”
Lovell lost just once in his seven-game caretaker stint, winning four and drawing two of the games during his temporary role.
Steve Lovell as Gillingham caretaker boss
|Saturday October 14||Peterborough United||A||Won 1-0|
|Tuesday October 17||Wigan Athletic||H||Drew 1-1|
|Saturday October 21||Northampton Town||H||Lost 2-1|
|Saturday October 28||Rotherham United||A||Won 3-1|
|Saturday November 4||Leyton Orient (FA Cup)||H||Won 2-1|
|Tuesday November 7||Reading U21 (EFL Trophy)||H||Won 7-5|
|Saturday November 11||Bury||H||Drew 1-1|
And while most – Scally included – were of the view that the club were going to make an external appointment, Lovell saw an opportunity to make an impact and stake his own claim for the job.
“When Peter [Taylor] left the football club the chairman asked me to take the Peterborough game and it was an opportunity for me to get my teeth into it straight away,” he explained.
“I changed a few personnel, changed the system of the team and [we] went to Peterborough and put on a good performance, had a good win, and we’ve continued that all the way through so far.”
The fans had been restless over the club seemingly dragging its feet over the next managerial appointment, but now most will be relieved that things have finally been concluded, with Lovell continuing as boss, but without that ‘caretaker’ tag, for the rest of the campaign.
Despite the delay, Lovell admitted it still felt like a whirlwind, as he went from first-team coach to full-time manager in the space of a little over a month.
“It’s been a very quick turnaround regarding what I was doing here to where I am now,” he said.
“But I’m delighted it’s happened and I’m just looking forward to the challenge ahead.”