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Appointing Steve Lovell: The decision that saved Gillingham’s season

Chairman Paul Scally erred by reappointing Adrian Pennock in the summer, but he made a good call by handing Steve Lovell the reins on a permanent basis



Gillingham’s season looked to be heading only one way, through the relegation trapdoor and into League Two. But thankfully chairman Paul Scally made three crucial – and timely – decisions that look like they’ve saved the club’s season, as well as their League One status.

On September 25, Scally relieved head coach Adrian Pennock and coach Jamie Day of their duties. Then, after director of football Peter Taylor left the club, he appointed Steve Lovell as caretaker boss.

Putting Lovell in charge stopped the rot, but the decision to then reward the former Gills striker’s impressive performance in charge by giving him the job full-time was not only the right decision but a brave one.

Sure, he was probably the cheapest option on the table – the club were linked with the controversial Steve Evans as well as former Crystal Palace anchorman Shaun Derry, among others.

But after Pennock’s disastrous season last year and Scally’s incomprehensible decision to re-appoint him for this season, handing the reins to a man who hadn’t managed anywhere previously was, on paper, an enormous gamble.

But the time is now right to say that it was a gamble that most wanted to see him take, and one that has paid off. The team, which once looked like guaranteed relegation fodder, is now competitive at home and away against all levels of L1 opposition. And the results have noticeably improved as a result. At the time of writing, Gillingham are 14th in the table, nine points off the playoffs and five points clear of the drop zone.

Barring a catastrophic loss of form over the remaining 19 games, Gillingham should be playing their football in League One next season where, after a full pre-season and (hopefully) the chance to bring in some of his chosen targets, Lovell can really put his stamp on Gillingham FC in 2018/19.

But for now, let’s be grateful that the chairman had the good sense to recognise his mistake in appointing Pennock, but still had the cajones to appoint an unproven manager who’d shown promise during his caretaker reign.