Published: 07:54, 21 June 2021
| Updated: 07:56, 21 June 2021
Returning Gillingham defender Max Ehmer feels Joey Barton made him the scapegoat for Bristol Rovers’ poor form.
New boss Barton questioned why Ehmer had been made captain in a withering public attack as Rovers slipped towards relegation.
It followed his withdrawal at half-time in successive 2-0 defeats, at Hull and Plymouth in March, and Ehmer, who subsequently had shoulder surgery, never played for them again.
“I’m not going to go too much in depth with it, but it was strange,” said Ehmer, who rejoined Gillingham last week.
“From how he was speaking to me when he first came in to what he came out and said was odd.
“It was almost like I got scapegoated.
“How can you blame someone who’s injured when you first come in, missed a couple of weeks with my shoulder and then I played 45 minutes at Hull and 45 minutes at Plymouth and somehow it’s all my fault?
“At the end of the day some people just need to look at themselves rather than blaming others I suppose.”
Ehmer is happy to take criticism on the chin but was surprised by Barton’s comments.
There had been nothing on that level in private, and they’d just held talks about his shoulder injury.
“He came for me a couple of times in meetings but he was always positive, that’s what made it even more strange,” said the 29-year-old.
“The day he released the article was the day he agreed to let me get my shoulder operated on, so then I saw all the reports saying I wasn’t committed to it, but my shoulder had no ligaments in it, so I think I had to get it done regardless.
“I was trying to play on, trying to help the club and it got to a point where I couldn’t, and he agreed to let me get it done.”
Ehmer described Gillingham as a “proper place to play football” in a tweet following his switch back to Priestfield.
That angered Rovers fans, who took it as a dig, but Ehmer says they have the wrong end of the stick.
“The funny thing is, it’s nothing to do with Bristol, that tweet,” he said.
“If you read it from a Gillingham side of the tweet, it’s nothing against Bristol Rovers or anything like that.
“Obviously we got relegated but I’ve got a lot of friends still there and I respect a lot of people there.
“It was literally nothing to do with Bristol Rovers but it got to the point where they’re nibbling too much and I can’t go back on it because they think I said it.
"It's literally saying Gillingham is a proper place to play football."
Ehmer is keen to move on with the next chapter of his career back at Gillingham.
He’d stayed in touch with manager Steve Evans, so Priestfield was always his likely destination.
Ehmer said: “To be honest, I spoke with Steve all of last season as well, just on a personal side so it was something he was aware of, that I was able to leave Bristol.
“I speak to him all the time and he gives me advice on everything, even just general chat, so it’s not just the football side with me and him, it’s on a personal level as well.
“He’s a top manager and probably the best I’ve worked under.
“At the end of the day it wasn’t my No.1 option to leave Gillingham at all but it was something for my family, for my kids, I had to go, but I’m delighted to come back.
“He got the best out of me when I was there and he got the best out of the team, and he did it again last season.”
Ehmer returns to Gillingham fully fit after surgery and is ready to hit the ground running following a year away.
If you think he’ll need time to get last season out of his system, think again.
He said: “People read into all the stuff, that I was the worst player ever, or whatever else.
“If they want to say that, that’s fine, there were results and games where I played really well.
“Like I said, I feel like it was scapegoating but I’m big enough and wise enough to know it’s part and parcel of football and I’m not going to take it to heart.
“I’ve had my shoulder fixed, I’m ready to go at Gillingham and I can’t wait to play under Steve Evans because I know what he can get out of me, what he can get out of the team and I’m really looking forward to it.”