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Gillingham first team coach Nicky Southall writes exclusively for the KM Group

Andy Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall leave the field
Andy Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall leave the field

Welcome to the first of my columns. I’ve taken over Benno’s Beat while Mark Bentley is out on loan at Cambridge United.

We go into a difficult fixture on Saturday against a Burton team who have been unlucky this season as they’ve had so many games postponed.

They have a backlog of matches to catch up on and have been dragged into a relegation battle. Once you are down there, though, it is like a vortex and you get sucked in.

They are decent at home and have a couple of big strong lads at the back like Darren Moore. We’ve had them watched and know what we’ve got to face.

We actually use my brother, Scott, to help out with scouting as he lives in Wigan and there are so many teams up there like Morecambe, Accrington, Macclesfield, Stockport and Crewe.

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For us to get to those games, logistically, it is a nightmare, especially with myself and Ian Hendon having young families. You end up getting back in the early hours and that isn’t easy.

Scott has played the game, he knows what he is talking about and his reports have been accurate. He is pretty good with computers as well and sends us over clips so we can see all of the set pieces.

I’ve done a bit of scouting myself this season but recently I’ve been helping out with the youth team as Darren Hare (youth manager) has been ill. He is on the mend now, which is great, but in his absence I’ve enjoyed the role.

It’s an edgy time for the youth players, especially the second years, as they will soon find out whether they are going to get offered professional terms or not.

I have been there and worn the T-shirt. I was at Darlington and got released. As a first year apprentice, we got relegated to the Vauxhall Conference but they spent all of their resources getting back up.

Brian Little was the manager at the time and all the second years were released because they had no finances.

I ended up training with Hartlepool and played up front in a practice game where I scored twice. They signed me on a one-year deal and I scored twice on my debut a week later!

I have played pretty much every position in my career, including in goal. People see the name Southall and think that because I have the same surname as Neville Southall, I must be good!

I’ve been in goal for Bolton and Grimsby when goalkeepers have been sent-off but I conceded penalties on both occasions. Although in the Bolton game, I did get a fingertip to it!

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