Midfielder looks ahead to the new season
One player definitely looking forward to the new season is Matt Gill, though he’s a doubt for the opening game of the campaign against Exeter City, his former club.
The midfielder made just 13 appearances last season, up until the point where surgery was required on a troublesome knee injury.
Now, though, after a gruelling and intensive rehabilitation programme, he can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“Things are going really well at the moment and I’ve had a good summer which has been spent working hard. Along with Seanan Clucas and Garry Kenneth I spent three weeks at Lilleshall and that really helped
us all push on as we recover from long term injuries.
“My recovery programme is almost complete and when the lads head off to Lincolnshire next week I’ll spend the week at St Georges Park (which has replaced Lilleshall as the rehabilitation centre) undergoing a final intensive programme of work. After that I don’t think I’ll be too far away from a return to action.”
As for that first game down at St James’ Park, he’[s already tried bribing physiotherapist Phil Kite to let him be involved!
“As soon as the fixtures came out I was on to ‘Kitey’ offering him a few quid to make sure he got me ready for that first game.
“It didn’t work, though, and while that match will probably a little bit too soon for me, I shouldn’t be too far away.”
Last season proved to be a frustrating time as he played through the pain barrier in almost all of his 13 appearances.
“I’ve had a long standing knee problem and have now had three operations in 18 months. The first two didn’t get to the bottom of the problem, but I then saw a specialist in London and he advised the third operation to resolve the issues with my knee. It’s meant a longer rehabilitation programme, but my knee will be a lot stronger as a result of it.”
Whilst he was out, of course, the club changed manager and although he has yet to play for John Ward he’s been kept fully up to speed by the boss.
“The manager has kept all of the injured lads involved and has been great for all of us. He spoke to me often throughout my rehabilitation programme and he’s been brilliant. It’s difficult, not having played for him, but all I can do is get my head down, work hard, and try to get in his plans as soon as possible.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed about the manager is that he has very high standards, which is great, and what this club should have had from the off. It was brilliant watching games in the second half of last season, seeing the lads train really hard, and get the results they deserved.”
Naturally, such a good second half to the campaign means that there will be high expectations around the club once the season begins.
“Of course there will be and I’m sure the momentum that was gained last season will continue into the new season. However, as the manager says, it’s about improving all the time, as individuals and as a team, and improving the squad and I’m sure he will continue to do that.”
One thing already in evidence on the training ground is the team spirit that saw the team through some very difficult times in the second half of last season. If that can be maintained, then be assured we won’t be in for such a roller coaster campaign this time around.
“The team spirit around the club now is probably the best since I’ve been here and the manager has a lot to do with that. He has a lot of enthusiasm, which rubs off on the lads, and you can’t help but be enthused to train as hard as you can. When season starts, the lads will be raring to go.”
John Ward is now, of course, assisted on the training ground by two youthful and enthusiastic coaches in assistant manager Darrell Clarke and Development Coach Marcus Stewart.
“Darrell was very successful at Salisbury, and is hungry and looking to succeed while Marcus is the same and one of the hardest working members of staff I’ve known; he wants to be as successful as a coach as he was as a player.
“As players, it’s a great help to us to have two hungry young coaches around the place, combined with the knowledge and experience the manager has.”
Matt was speaking at the club’s training ground on Monday, and the full interview is available on Gas Player.