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January transfer window: Gillingham head coach Stephen Clemence says new signings are not his primary focus yet with five League 2 games to play in December

Gillingham head coach Stephen Clemence has spoken at length about the January transfer window for the first time.

The 45-year-old has only been in the job for just over a month but the opportunity to strengthen his squad is on the horizon, even though there are five league games to play before the turn of the year.

Gillingham head coach Stephen Clemence. Picture: Keith Gillard
Gillingham head coach Stephen Clemence. Picture: Keith Gillard

New signings will ultimately be down to head of recruitment Andy Hessenthaler and director of football Kenny Jackett but Clemence will provide valuable input.

“It’s not something I’ve gone into great detail about with the board but it’s something we have to have our eye on,” explained Clemence.

“It’s coming around quick now, there’s no real movement happened up to now.

“Obviously, anyone who comes into this club is going to have to be a very good player because the players that I do have here are decent.

“There’s no point bringing people in just to fill up the squad, if they’re going to come in they have to be ready to go into the team and try and make us better. We’ll have to see if we can do that.”

If Clemence wants to start shaping the squad his way, then that may mean players need to depart in order to meet League 2’s financial regulations.

Whatever the potential scenarios ahead, the head coach was keeping the strategy very much in-house.

“It's not a conversation we’ve gone into great detail about,” he added. “I’ve spoken to people inside the club but it’s not something I’m going to share now.

“January is coming up, everybody who works in football will be looking at January and if there’s a player out there that can improve us then we’d like to think we’d be interested.”

Andy Hessenthaler and Kenny Jackett (back row, from left) will take a lead role in Gillingham’s January transfer window activity. Picture: Keith Gillard
Andy Hessenthaler and Kenny Jackett (back row, from left) will take a lead role in Gillingham’s January transfer window activity. Picture: Keith Gillard

Clemence is certainly doing his homework, though. He delivered an insight into how much preparation is put in away from the training ground, be it for potential signings, forthcoming opponents or just to develop his own team.

It’s a different approach to when Clemence himself was turning professional with Tottenham in the 1990s.

“The modern game has changed a lot, and even since I first started,” he explained. “I think managers and head coaches would probably be out watching other football more and scouting if you like, but football staff has changed over the years and also being a manager or head coach, a lot more analysis has come in on that area.

“I spend a large part of my week watching opposition, watching ourselves, trying to improve ourselves as well as how we’re going to beat the next opponent. I think that’s changed a bit over the years, I think there’s a lot more variety in formations.

“Recruitment departments have got bigger, and we’ve got a good recruitment department here who work very hard and they do bring players to me, and then we look at them together.

“We’re not quite there yet, we’ve still got a few weeks to go. Anything can happen in a few weeks, where players can get injured, players falling out of favour, back in favour, so there’s a lot of moving parts in it.”

Such analysis is time-consuming but it’s not to the detriment of coaching time on the training ground.

Instead, it’s Clemence’s wife who is missing out - as the Gills head coach watches football in the evenings rather than Netflix!

“I never miss a training session but this goes into your afternoon, this goes into your evenings,” he added.

“I’m at home and my wife is saying can we watch something on Netflix and I can’t really as I need to study another football game.

“That’s not just me, that’s my staff that work alongside me as well. There’s a lot of work that goes in and players almost expect it these days. It’s what goes on at academies around the country.

“It didn’t go on for me, players back in the day if there was a meeting they’d be saying ‘oh, we’re not having another meeting’ but now I think players almost expect it.

“It’s where you can show them what’s coming next, where they can improve and where they’ve done well. There’s a lot of work that goes into that to produce it.”

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