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Conor Masterson is Gillingham’s player-of-the-year and is still pushing for promotion even though it’s a long-shot – Former QPR and Liverpool defender reflects on the season and club’s turnaround

Player-of-the-year winner Conor Masterson would swap the personal accolades at Gillingham for promotion in a heartbeat.

Masterson, 25, took the fans’ award at the club’s annual end-of-season ceremony on Saturday night but with two games to go, there remains hope that the club’s aims for the season can still be achieved.

A cross from Conor Masterson is turned in by a Barrow defender on Saturday Picture: @Julian_KPI
A cross from Conor Masterson is turned in by a Barrow defender on Saturday Picture: @Julian_KPI

More: Defensive players in the spotlight at awards ceremony

He said: “I would rather throw all of that (acclaim) away and get the team promoted if I am honest! That is what we’re focused on.

“I came here because the club gave me a chance and I wanted to repay them and give the best performances I possibly could for the team, I am glad that people think I’ve done alright this season.

“I came here to play as much as possible and I think I have done that. Gillingham has been a big club for me in my career, it’s really been the club I have settled at and played my best football.

“I have really enjoyed it here, the fans have been really supportive to me, that is one of the reasons I came if I am honest, I wanted to come back and get promoted with the team and I still aim to do that.

“We want to go out with a bang - whether that’s in or out of the play-offs. I don’t want the fans to think we’ve given up or thrown in the towel, it’s not how we feel.

“Stephen (Clemence) and Robbie (Stockdale, the head coach and assistant) have come in and been really good with us, with their philosophies, the gaffer has helped me a lot and I have really enjoyed working with him.

“I came to the club (for promotion) - I want to keep going and give everything I can as long as I can for this club, that’s the way it’s going to be.

“We want to give everything for Gillingham - we want to keep fighting to the end. We believe in ourselves and you never know.”

Gillingham's player-of-the-year Conor Masterson with owners Brad and Shannon Galinson
Gillingham's player-of-the-year Conor Masterson with owners Brad and Shannon Galinson

It’s been a big learning curve for Masterson, helping the club to remain largely sound defensively and chipping in with more goals than any of the centre-forwards.

An ugly on-field argument with team-mate Remeao Hutton at Barrow and a six-minutes to forget at Wimbledon as he picked up two yellow cards in quicktime, were moments to learn from.

He said: “Getting sent off was tough for me, it was the first ever time in my career, a learning curve.

“I probably shouldn’t have played, I wasn’t fully fit if I am honest, but that’s another learning curve as well, obviously it is frustrating, but I will learn from it and it can only stand me in good stead in some way.

“I didn’t want to let my team down, that’s what I had in my head, maybe when I look back I shouldn’t have. Ifs, buts, maybes, whatever, it is what it is.”

Masterson joined the Gills on a permanent deal after leaving QPR in the summer, following two impressive loan stints previously.

He’s experienced relegation with the Gills from League 1 and life at the foot of League 2 so is well-placed to comment on the club’s rapid turnaround.

He said: “Considering where we were, it’s a huge step forward.

“When I came in (on loan in January last year) we had 15 points or something, right at the bottom of the table, we got 10 new players and did really well.

“It has been a huge turn from where we were to where we are now and we just want to keep getting better.”

Conor Masterson in action for Gillingham at Priestfield Picture: @Julian_KPI
Conor Masterson in action for Gillingham at Priestfield Picture: @Julian_KPI

That turnaround came following the arrival of the Galinsons and with new investment came bigger expectation. It’s meant plenty of criticism for the club as they have struggled to make the play-offs.

“Everyone wants more don’t they?” he said.

“You see the new players coming in, you get excited, new owners, ambition and all, our ambition was to get play-offs and we are still fighting for that.

“We have come a long way from last year and we do have to reflect and say ‘hold on, considering where we were, it’s a whole lot better’, but what we had in our mind at the start of the season and the players we have, we wanted to be up there.

“We have been inconsistent and it is tough, we look around the room and the players we have in the team (and ask) why hasn’t it worked? But you can’t focus on that, it is the past now.

“With the players that were brought in we were expected to be doing a bit better, but you have to move on, we will just focus on one game at a time.”

Gillingham are next in action on Saturday away at Mansfield Town.

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