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Challenges ahead for Gillingham manager Neil Harris after relegation from League 1

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Gillingham manager Neil Harris is determined to drive up standards at the club as he looks to pick up the pieces from their relegation campaign.

Harris took charge of Gillingham’s last 18 games and despite improving their form, it wasn’t enough, as the club were relegated to League 2 on goal difference. He’s planning a summer clear-out of playing staff but every part of the club will be under scrutiny after a disastrous season.

Gillingham manager Neil Harris hopes to improve standards at the club following relegation season Picture: Keith Gillard
Gillingham manager Neil Harris hopes to improve standards at the club following relegation season Picture: Keith Gillard

The Gills went down after a 2-0 defeat to Rotherham and post-match Harris offered his players some words of truth. The team was relegated with just 40 points and only 35 league goals scored - the fewest in the division.

“I didn’t speak with anger, I just told them the truth,” he said. “Sometimes in life you need to be told the truth, and it is my responsibility as the manager that they need to know the truth and that goes for the staff as well.

“The staff I have inherited haven’t been good enough. Standards need to be better across the football club, it is not just about what the players do on the pitch for 90 minutes on a Saturday, it is about what happens during the week, it is about having the right people in the right jobs with roles and responsibilities and we have been miles off.”

Harris’ frustration was clear to see in his post-match interviews after Saturday’s game.

"To have a tactics board on my first day would have been nice," he told Sky Sports. "Minor details that people don’t see are major for football managers. The challenge was there, I accepted the challenge, I am emotionally invested in the challenge and that is why it hurts.

“I take responsibility for the football club - it has not been good enough. The whole football club has let its fans down this year. That will change when I am in charge.

“The balance of the squad, the fitness, the standards, it has been a disgrace and it has to change. The fans have been neglected."

Harris has already overhauled the recruitment policy at the club with the appointment of Nicky Shorey to head up that department.

The manager can now begin to mould a squad of his own making ready to challenge in League 2 next year.

Commenting on that challenge ahead, he told the press: “I can’t make promises about next year but what I can control today is to say that the standards and professionalism at the football club will be much better than what I have inherited, that will be a given.

“Changes of personnel in the squad? We have a huge overhaul of players and there is always an element of risk to that because you try recruit the players for the right reasons, it doesn’t mean you are going to get every one correct.

“There has to be learning curves in the football club, that if you don’t improve standards and you don’t drive forward, I talk about taking steps, if they don’t take the steps, the football club, that I want to take then we are not going to be successful next year, that is the challenge to the football club, we have to be better.

“I am all in, as you can tell, I enjoy it here, I think I have galvanised the football club and brought the terraces closer to the pitch, the fans stuck with the players again (on Saturday) because, let’s be honest, we haven’t got as good players as the teams we were playing against.

“We can’t just slope from one week to the next as we have done as a club, the standards next season will be miles better, I will have players with more professionalism, I will have leadership in my changing room, I will have more quality and have a right good go in League 2.”

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