Why Justin Edinburgh is learning from his mistakes

Written by Ryan White

Gillingham manager Justin Edinburgh received a lot of criticism on the back-end of last season with what many will say as ‘dreadful’ and ‘horrific’. If you’re reading this and you have no idea just the state of our form between January and May then I’ll put this to you; The Gills were top on the 24th January and finished 9th after the full-time whistle of the Millwall game.

We were in relegation form and the stats would prove it but I have to admit Edinburgh should take a lot of praise for the hard work he has done over the summer. He is still a very young manager and I’m sure the former Premier League defender has realised where it went wrong in the 2015/16 campaign. From formation to signings, Justin has a lot to answer for from the second-half of last season.

Firstly, it is noticeable that the gaffer is a backer of youth in the team with an average age of under 25 last year and that might be where he made his first mistake. I’m for one a supporter of young teams but you always need experience in that side, players who have been promoted from League One before and know what it takes or have in the past offered their services in the Championship or Premier League. The only players who could offer any sort of experience last season was Doug Loft, Cody McDonald (who got injured) and Stuart Nelson. Neither of these three have ever played above League One on a consistent basis and that showed in the last 23 games or so. This summer Justin Edinburgh has already brought in Scott Wagstaff and Paul Konchesky. The latter needs no introduction – signing a one-year contract after being released by Leicester City. Meanwhile, Scott Wagstaff enjoyed promotion in 2015 with Bristol City. He’ll be able to offer that to this young Gills side and hopefully gain from it. The manager has to take a lot of credit for that, bringing in all this wealth of experience.

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Some say pre-season friendlies are nothing but fitness and I, to a certain extent, agree with that. In the past we have had to play up to ten friendlies in the space of a month and from evidence the team does not necessarily benefit from that. This summer Edinburgh has only arranged five games in the space of three weeks – that is enough to re-gain competitive match fitness. Whereas in years gone past, the whole squad is near enough knackered before the season begins.

Last season we relied on a number of loanees, which probably didn’t help but with a small budget and limited resources you sort of have to deal with that. So far, as of writing this, Edinburgh has only made loan signings – defender Adedeji Oshilaja and striker Joe Quigley. He’s promoted several youngsters into the first-team, including; Tom Hadler, Darren Oldaker, Greg Cundle and Mitch Dickenson. I know there is no emergency loan system this year but for the manager to offer professional deals to four youth-team players shows he has confidence in The Gills’ academy. In the future I am hoping some of these can be famous names produced by Gillingham, adding to the likes of Matt Jarvis and Ryan Bertrand. Saying that though, we are in an abundance of midfielders which might mean Cundle and Oldaker might not feature much.

I still think Edinburgh has a lot to work on but, as I previously mentioned, he’s still young in the management job and will improve as time goes on. The 4-4-2 diamond formation doesn’t seem to work after a while and that is where we got caught out last season, it looks like that’s the shape Justin is going for again.

Thank you for reading and if you are a Gills fan, it would be nice to hear your opinions on the manager.

featured image by Paul Wilkinson